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In Syria, hopes that 'ceasefire will be the beginning of the end of the war'
"Fear is being challenged by hope that the conflict will end soon."
By Oliver Maksan
NEW YORK—A leader of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Syria has expressed his hopes that the current efforts at bringing about a permanent ceasefire will be the beginning of the end of the war in Syria.
When asked about the temporary end of hostilities that took effect Feb. 27, 2016, Archbishop Selwanos Boutros Alnemeh of Homs and Hama said: “We pray to the Lord God to put his hand to every good work, and the ceasefire process is good work, especially after such a long period of war. And ask the Lord to bless this step, and that it will be the beginning of the end of the war in our beloved Syria.”
In an interview with international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Archbishop Selwanos expressed his joy over the recent release of Christian hostages from captivity by ISIS. On Feb. 22, 2016, the last 43 hostages from an initial group of 253 captured Christians were released, reportedly after the paying of ransom. The hostages were captured one year ago when ISIS advanced through the Khabur region of north-eastern Syria. At the time, around 3,000 Christians were forced to flee their village.
“There is no doubt,” Archbishop Selwanos said, “that the thing that happened with the hostages may enter the joy of all Christians, and has increased the belief that God still works miracles in difficult times, and that the Lord responds to the prayers of good people.”
Meanwhile, ISIS is still holding more than 170 Christian captives from the Syrian town of Al-Qaryatayn, which was conquered by the terror militia in August of 2015. The jihadists followed this with the destruction of Mar Elian, a 1,500-year-old monastery.
Archbishop Selwanos said that Syria’s Christians continue to live in fear of ISIS and other jihadist groups even after the release of the hostages from the Khabur region. “Christians have lived in fear of Daesh (Arabic term for ISIS) and jihadist, and are still afraid. But this fear is being challenged by hope that the conflict will end soon, especially as Christians love peace and seek peace by all means.”
Aid to the Church in Need supports the humanitarian work of Archbishop Selwanos. Since the outbreak of war in Syria in 2011, the aid organization has donated a total of more than $12M to for both pastoral and humanitarian aid administered by the local Churches. The aid work is primarily focused on supporting the many internally displaced persons.
Archbishop Selwanos at Mass; ACN photo