Rowing against the current in Damascus

Such an old Apostolic Church, rooted in tradition and customs--can she take steps towards a new type of Christian testimony?

By Archbishop Samir Nassar

THIS seventh year of Syria’s civil war is reaping the bitter fruit of successive violence storms that have shattered Syrian society’s peace. Here are the main three victims: families, young people and the Church.

Shattered families: This basic unit of Syrian society, which had previously saved its country in crisis, has lost its identity. Dispersed, deprived of resources, lacking shelter, grieving, ravaged by disease, the elderly—the heads of the family in the past—are increasingly isolated and find no assistance whatsoever.

Forced to row against the current during these seven years of violence, can these shattered and fragile families keep standing?

Syria_funeral in Damascus.jpg

Tormented young people: In the past, young people were the strength of our society; today they’re divided between the battlefield fronts of war and trying to escape the massive and prolonged military service conscription that’s part of the country’s general mobilization. Great numbers of young people leave the country, leaving a huge emptiness behind.

Their absence is felt in the Syrian economy which suffers from a pronounced shortage of manual labor and is greatly weakened. How can we guarantee the survival of a country deprived of its active workforce?

A Church that questions herself: There hasn’t been one single baptism or marriage in the last eight months. This drop in the administration of the sacraments has been evident for five years now. The absence of young people has big repercussions for parish life.

Sunday liturgies, catechism, First Communion and parish activities across the board have diminished considerably. This has contributed to the exodus of priests who have seen their pastoral work reduced to a minimal level. The are extremely discouraged.

Can’t we see in these changes the beginning of a twilight?

This structural mutations invite us to question ourselves concerning the pastoral traditions.

Such an old Apostolic Church, rooted in tradition and customs—can she take steps towards a new type of Christian testimony?

In order to save the last witnesses of the Gospel, our little Church relies on the Holy Spirit, who alone guide us toward a new Pentecost. COME SPIRIT OF LIGHT!

Damascus, July 18, 2017

 + Samir NASSAR

Maronite Archbishop of Damascus

Funeral in Damascus; ACN photo

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