Support for catechetical centers in Syria

Project Code: 398-08-39

Homs is in western Syria, just over 100 miles from the capital Damascus. Prior to the civil war, this city was one of the principal industrial centers of the country, along with the still more important center of Aleppo.

The Old City of Homs was once a jewel, and the people of the different religious faiths lived there peacefully together. In March 2011, however, the situation escalated, with protests against the government. On Good Friday, blockades were erected in order to prevent the demonstrators from moving freely through the streets, and shortly afterwards seven demonstrators in Homs were shot dead. On this one day, some 1,000 demonstrators or more were killed throughout Syria. Support for catechetical centers in Syria

In the bloody civil war that followed, and which has now lasted four years, Homs became a central battleground of the conflict between the rebels and the government troops. Father Andrzej Halemba, head of ACN's project section for the Middle East, explains: "Homs became a veritable hell; day after day the city saw heavy fighting, with casualties on both sides. Homs became a bloody battleground, which many people have even compared with the Battle of Stalingrad."

In May 2014, the opposition capitulated. The thousands of people who, two years earlier, had fled from what was once dubbed as the Syrian "capital of the revolution," returned to their homes to find a scene of apocalyptic destruction in the city – burned out buildings with nothing but the walls still standing, other buildings reduced to nothing but dust and twisted metal, and everywhere rubble and the burnt out skeletons of vehicles."

The Greek Melkite Archbishop of Homs, Hama and Yabroud, Msgr. Jean Abdo Arbach, is now doing all he can to continue the pastoral work of his diocese, despite the civil war. He is particularly concerned to help the children and young people to grow in their faith, and also to help the adults to face up to the many challenges to their faith in Syria today. He knows that this is the only sure basis for a better future.

Some of the catechetical centers of the diocese were destroyed by the bombing; others were looted and have lost all their furnishings. But there are still 10 centers where work is continuing, and the number of participants range from 480 in Yabroud down to 100 in Kara.

At the moment there are three hours of instruction, three times a week. Altogether there are 3,300 young people and 350 teachers. The catechists and priests work for nothing. Each center is under the supervision of the parish priest, who is helped by religious Sisters.

Bishop Arbach is asking our help to refurbish the buildings and re-equip them with the necessary teaching materials, so that the instruction can take place once again. We are helping with $9,900.

Will you help Bishop Arbach renew these catechetical centers, so that they can continue to serve the faithful in Syria?


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