29 October 2018 - Msgr. Audo, Syrian Bishop: a "positive sign" for the Syrians and for the international community. Closed since 2012, thousands of ancient artifacts and manuscripts housed inside. Syrian Minister: cultural heritage "has not been destroyed" by terrorism. But the priorities remain poverty and youth migration.
The reopening of the national museum in Damascus has an "important significance" for the whole country, because it seems to testify that "we see the end of this great crisis" in Syria even if many steps "still need to be taken" says Msgr. Antoine Audo, Chaldean bishop of Aleppo and ex-president of Caritas Syria.
"At an international level" - as confirmed by the weekend meeting in Istanbul - positive elements are emerging that point to an end to the conflict. "This opening - continues the prelate - is one of the signs that seem to strengthen the reconstruction goal that has recently gotten underway. It is a positive signal inside and out. It is not yet time to celebrate the end of the war, but something is really moving in a perspective of real change ".
Last October 28 the inaugural ceremony for the reopening of (part) of the national museum was held in Damascus. Inaugurated in 1920 and closed for over six years due to the violence and devastation of the war in Syria. In 2012 the heads of the center had ordered the blockade to protect the artifacts and antiques present in it from damage, looting and devastation.
At the time, most of the treasures had been evacuated in great secrecy and sheltered in various locations throughout the country, in the territories that remained under government control. The decision to reopen is the confirmation of the stabilization attempts promoted by President Bashar al-Assad and the executive, to show the world an (albeit slow) return to normality.
The Syrian Minister of Culture Mohamed al-Ahmad emphasizes that the reopening of the museum is a "sincere message" to the world that the immense cultural, historical and artistic heritage of the country has not been destroyed by "terrorism".
Yesterday there was a re-opening of part of the structure, but the goal is to return to full functionality in the short term. "We will exhibit a part of the artifacts ranging from prehistory to the classical and Islamic era" explains Deputy Director Ahmad Deeb.
The museum garden remained open for the duration of the war, but the building was closed in concomitance with the first rebel rocket launches on the capital. At the beginning of the month the leaders of the cultural sector had organized an exhibition of finds and antiques inside the Damascus Opera House.
Syria is home to over 700 major archaeological sites, many of which have been destroyed, damaged or looted during these years of war. Both sides have been accused of violations, even though the rebel and jihadist groups have found a substantial funding in the trade in artifacts and antiques.
The most famous case of devastation concerned the city of Palmyra, Unesco world heritage site, conquered by the Islamic State (IS, ex Isis) who beheaded the local director of antiquities and used the central square for executions. The area returned under government control only thanks to the intervention of the Russians.
The national museum of Damascus, underlines Msgr. Audo, "is a very important cultural center for the country. Reopening it means trying to heal one of the many wounds opened by this bloody war, even if today there are other priorities: fighting poverty, overcoming the issue of migration among young people and we need the help of the international community for this".
The "cultural renaissance is still far away", but as a country we can say that we are moving forward" concludes the bishop, and Aleppo too wants to make its contribution. "Here we have a choir of about twenty young people, led by a high profile choir master who have just toured in France. Through singing they wanted to give a sign of presence, vitality and recovery in spite of and beyond the war. The country must continue to walk". (Asianews)