In a powerful Lenten message dated 12 February, the Maronite archbishop in Damascus, Syria, Samir Nassar, likens an exhausted Syria to a sinking ship in a powerful storm, recalling the Gospel story of the apostles anguished by the rough seas as Jesus slept.
It seems the cruelty of war in Syria has not been seen in the world since World War II, he writes, adding that “with the diminishment of violence an economic disaster has overtaken the people. … 950,000 families living with death.
“More than 200,000 people have disappeared — among them two bishops and four priests.” It has become a “nightmare for those parents and friends who do not know what has happened to their loved ones,” he writes, adding that “13,000,000 refugees from different areas live in misery and uncertainty,” while another “95,000 people with amputated hands and feet or paralysis” live “in a country which is unable to cope with these problems that are both psychological and medical.”
Archbishop Nassar continues that more than 2.5 million houses have been damaged or destroyed, that “ruins” are scattered “everywhere like dead towns, which have become camps for refugees and the homeless.
“The situation is such that the people are choked by blockades and sanctions, thus limiting the help they can receive from outside,” while “rampant inflation and COVID-19 are doing the rest.”
“Faced with these scenes of desolation, little ones and the poor cry out to the Lord as they try to heal their wounds: ‘Master, don’t you care that we are about to perish?’”
“Even if the world forgets Syria,” the archbishop concludes, “the Lord looks at us and does not let the boat sink,” reminding his readers that Jesus calmed the waters when roused from his sleep. Meanwhile, “the church in Syria continues on her path and her work in the fields of health and education,” accompanying and supporting the weakest of families.