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Displaying items by tag: Siria

12 April 2018 - "A Mar Musa la situazione è tranquilla e anche nella Valle dei cristiani, dove sono nato e cresciuto, non ci sono tensioni. Certo, la situazione complessiva del paese è ancora precaria". Fratel Jihad Youssef è un monaco di Mar Musa, la comunità monastica cattolica di rito siriaco, rifondata dal gesuita padre Paolo Dall’Oglio (rapito nel 2013 e di cui non si conosce più la sorte), sita nei pressi della cittadina di al-Nabk, a circa 80 chilometri a nord di Damasco.

Condividendo con l'Agenzia FIdes le sue impressioni, dopo la Pasqua, il monaco afferma: "Si combatte ancora in alcune zone. In quelle aree gli scontri sono feroci. Le vittime sono molte, la maggior parte civili innocenti. La situazione è drammatica. Ma anche nelle zone pacificate o che non sono mai state interessate dagli scontri, la situazione sociale non è florida". Il lavoro non c’è, i prezzi sono altissimi. Le famiglie fanno fatica a tirare avanti. "Molte famiglie sono in difficoltà" continua fratel Jihad. "Di fronte a una situazione di incertezza, molti progettano di emigrare all’estero: Europa, Nord America, Australia. E' comprensibile, anche se penso che molti siano ingannati da false rappresentazioni dell’Occidente. Emigrare non è facile e, anche se si riesce a espatriare, la vita all’estero non è semplice".

Negli scorsi anni il monastero di Mar Musa non è stato toccato dai combattimenti. Le attività sono però diminuite fino a cessare, anche se i monaci non se ne sono mai andati. Da quasi due anni, lentamente, la vita sta tornando nell’antica struttura. Attualmente risiedono nella struttura tre monaci della comunità e due religiosi ospiti. "I flussi dei visitatori non sono tornati ai livelli precedenti alla guerra – continua – ma, soprattutto il venerdì (giorno di festa per i musulmani), molte persone, in maggioranza di fede islamica, vengono a visitare il monastero. Grandi e piccoli gruppi vengono a pregare, a meditare, a prendersi una pausa in un luogo che ispira riflessione e contemplazione".

I monaci e le monache, da parte loro, hanno ripreso le attività tradizionali. Pregano e si dedicano anche a lavori manuali: agricoltura, allevamento, manutenzione della struttura. "I monaci – conclude fratel Jihad - hanno ottime relazioni sia con la comunità cristiana della vicina Nebek, sia con la gente comune. Lavorano insieme ad alcuni progetti. Tra questi, vi è la collaborazione con l’ospedale locale per contribuire a fornirlo di macchinari medico-sanitari più moderni; è c'è anche un lavoro di carattere umanitario di sostegno ai poveri, in particolare i cristiani di Nebek, e gli sfollati di Qaryatayn". "La nostra zona ora è tranquilla. Ma il futuro è tutto da costruire. Sappiamo com’era la Siria prima della guerra. Non sappiamo ancora come sarà dopo", conclude fratel Jihad. (EC) (Agenzia Fides 12/4/2018).

Published in News

29 March 2018 - There is not only terrorist violence, gratuitous and destructive that affect religious minorities in Pakistan. The attack on the Methodist Church in Quetta brings to light the difficult condition of religious minorities in Pakistan, especially Christians and Hindus who make up 2% (4 million citizens) and 1% (2.2 million) out ot a population of about 200 million inhabitants.

In order to analyze the conditions and perspectives of religious minorities, Christian, Hindu, Sikh, Muslim and Bahai leaders met in recent days in Karachi, at a conference organized by the "Justice and Peace" Commission (CCJP), a body of the Catholic Episcopal Conference in Pakistan, which has been working for the rights of religious minorities in the country since 1985 (...).

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Published in News

23 March 2018 - Rockets struck Brad, a site that has several Byzantine churches and monasteries as well as tombs from the Roman period. Many buildings were destroyed, including the tomb of Saint Maron and the Julianus church. For Syrian expert, the site held one of the most beautiful pages of the history of Christianity in the East. Not even the Mongol invasion caused such damage.

Turkish air raids have damaged an ancient Christian heritage site in northeastern Syria near the city of Afrin, a Kurdish enclave in northern Syria, which Ankara-led forces captured on 17 March, Syria’s antiquities department said Thursday.

“Turkish regime planes bombed the archaeological site of Brad, 15 kilometres south of Afrin city,” the Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums said in a statement.

Brad – which includes many Byzantine churches and monasteries as well as tombs dating back to the Roman period – has been on Unesco’s world heritage list since 2011.

Rockets “destroyed many important archaeological buildings”, including the tomb of Saint Maron of the Maronite community, said Syrian antiquities chief Mahmoud Hamoud.

Turkish planes also destroyed “the Julianus Church, which includes the mausoleum and is one of the oldest Christian churches in the world, built at the end of the 4th century,” he added.

On 20 January, Ankara launched a major offensive against the mostly Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which it says is allied with the "terrorist" Kurdish Workers Party (PKK). The latter has been fighting for the independence of Turkish-occupied Kurdistan.

As President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced, after conquering Afrin, Turkey is now turning its attention towards other Kurdish towns in the area in order to control the border region in the eastern part of Syria.

Turkish troops and anti-Assad jihadi groups have not damaged only Christian sites. In late January, Syria accused Turkey of damaging the 3,000-year-old iron age neo-Hittite temple of Ain Dara as it pressed its bombardment of the Afrin region.

For its part, the Turkish military denied the charges, saying that “religious and cultural buildings, historical sites, archaeological ruins and public facilities are absolutely not among the targets” of its offensive. Still, damages from its planes to Syria’s and the world’s cultural heritage are there to see.

In addition to the tomb of Saint Maron, which was discovered in 2002 by a group of French archaeologists, the ancient city of Brad also has several Christian sites from the Roman and Byzantine periods.

“This site is one of the most beautiful pages of the history of Christianity. It is home to three churches, a monastery and a five-metre-high tower,” Syria’s former antiquities chief Maamoun Abdulkarim said. "Not even the Mongol invasion did this," he added.

In recent weeks, experts have voiced concerns over some 40 Christian villages in the Afrin region, which Unesco describes as "ancient villages of northern Syria" and has included in its World Heritage Sites.

The UN’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation says these villages provide, among other things, “an exceptional illustration of the development of Christianity in the East, in village communities”, and must be protected and preserved.

Meanwhile, the BBC has reported that one of the last rebel groups in the besieged enclave of Eastern Ghouta, outside Damascus, has announced a ceasefire.

The Faylaq al-Rahman group has accepted a UN-brokered truce, saying that the move would allow talks with the Russian military, Syria's ally, on guarantees for the safety of civilians.

Syrian troops currently hold 80 per cent of the enclave.

(Asianews)

Published in News
Tuesday, 16 January 2018 09:43

LEBANON "More vulnerable than ever"

15 January 2018 - Caritas Lebanon: The refugee crisis is increasing, citizens increasingly poor. UN: "More vulnerable than ever", more than half in conditions of "extreme poverty". The increasing "uncertainty" of aid. Fr. Paul Karam: At least 28% of Lebanese below the poverty line. We must "encourage" the peace process in Syria, the war will have "consequences for the next 50 years".

The Syrian refugee emergency in Lebanon is "becoming increasingly serious" because it involves not only those who have fled the conflict, but "the same local population that is becoming increasingly impoverished”, Fr. Paul Karam tells AsiaNews.  The priest who is also  director of Caritas Lebanon, has been at the forefront of welcoming Syrian families fleeing the war for more than six years, and he is now warning of the danger of a "serious economic, political and social crisis" for the country. "The problem is increasingly widespread - he adds - and today we know that at least 28% of the Lebanese population lives below the poverty line".

Recently, a Lebanese minister spoke of a decrease in Syrian refugees in Lebanon, which has just fallen below one million. However, according to UN experts, the situation is getting more complicated, so much so that today they are "more vulnerable than ever" and "more than half" live in conditions of "extreme poverty" and "more than three quarters below the poverty line". The confirmation comes from an investigation by UNICEF, the World Food Program and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), according to which aid and funding to respond to the emergency are more "uncertain".

Three quarters of Syrian refugees in Lebanon now live on less than four dollars a day; often money is not even enough to buy basic resources, like food and medicine. According to research, nine out of ten refugees have applied for cash loans and are now overwhelmed with debt. Each household spends on average $ 98 a month, 44 of which are used for eating.

In this emergency situation, Pope Francis in his 2018 Message for the World Day for Migrants and Refugees reminds us that in addition to welcoming we must "protect, promote and integrate". Fr. Paul Karam echoes this call warning it should  “not be lost in the void" but is essential "to awaken the consciences of the international community", often deaf to the growing needs. "The Church – he warns - must promote the value of peace, mutual aid and solidarity with ever greater force, promoting a peace that is founded on justice"

According to UN figures, 84% of refugees find refuge in Turkey (which receives 2.9 million people), Pakistan (1.4 million), Lebanon (over one million), Iran (979.400 migrants), Uganda (940.800) and Ethiopia (761.600).

"The problem - says Fr. Paul Karam to AsiaNews - is broad and complicated. The aid of the international community is diminishing and we cannot always count on solidarity and welfare". The emergency must be addressed, he continues, "by encouraging a peace process in Syria that has not really started yet. We must end this tragedy with negative consequences "on a regional and global scale”.

The director of Caritas Lebanon addresses those who have "managed" the war so far, inviting them to "think about the consequences that are more serious than the war itself" and involve Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey "for the next 50 years". There are many problems and urgencies, from housing to work, from the economy to infrastructures, he continues, "this is why we strongly urge an end the conflict" and call for "a real path of reconciliation".

"Meanwhile, the Lebanese are growing poorer - confirms Fr. Paul - at least 28% of the population lives below the poverty line and has no money to buy food. More and more citizens are turning to the Caritas centers; 2017 was a tragic year for us. Bishops, patriarchs, ministers, social workers are all aware of the seriousness of the problem".

If so far there have been no episodes of open hostility towards refugees, it is equally true that "people are increasingly tired of this emergency. There is the awareness of a social, economic and political problem to be solved".

"At the Church and Caritas levels - he concludes - for the Christmas period, we have promoted over 100 activities in support of both refugees and Lebanese citizens. These include the distribution of food, blankets and medicines to children. Our goal is to help the poorest of the poor. "(DS).(DS)

Published in News
Friday, 22 December 2017 11:05

SYRIA Syrian refugees are "the undesirables"

21 December 2017 - Refugees of the Syrian conflict "are crushed between two walls: they cannot go home, because the streets are blocked and their houses are in ruins, on the other hand the world despises them and closes doors. They are the undesirables. As Christmas approaches, these families find themselves in a worrying situation of no escape": this is what Maronite Archbishop Samir Nazssar says, who leads the community in Damascus, recalling in a note sent to Agenzia Fides that the conflict in Syria, which has lasted almost seven years, has created over 12 million refugees, forced to leave their homes.
The Archbishop observes: "These poor people have lost everything and have not found a roof, charitable organizations gather them in camps or buildings where everything is missing. In the face of this suffering some try to flee to other more peaceful places, but often they are sent back".
Mgr. Nassar notes that "many have found death during the journey or have drowned, others have died of illness or even committed suicide" and recalls that "in the past the Syrian people showed great generosity by welcoming the Armenian refugees in 1915, the Assyrian refugees in 1924, the Palestinian refugees in 1948, the Kurds in 1960, the Lebanese in 1975, the Iraqis in 2003. Now the Syrians themselves have become refugees: isolated and saddened, they have become undesirable".
The Archbishop cites "the Pope’s affection towards refugees: the Pope indicates the path of compassion: the Child God challenges our indifference, can we close our eyes once more?", he concludes. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 15/12/2017)

Published in News
Sunday, 17 September 2017 20:10

SYRIA "War is fought through forgiveness"

16th September 2017 -  "War is not fought with war, but through dialogue, forgiveness, reconciliation, and the will to start a new life and follow new paths of peace": said Armenian Catholic Archbishop of Aleppo, Butros Marayati, at the international meeting "Paths of Peace" organized by the Community of Sant'Egidio in Munster, Germany. As Fides learns, Marayati, who heads the Armenian community of Aleppo, a place which is symbol of the long Syrian conflict, recalled the other two Bishops of Aleppo, Siro-Orthodox Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim and Greek Orthodox Paul Yazigi, kidnapped on April 22, 2013, renewing an appeal for their release: "Aleppo awaits the return of its kidnapped Bishops and priests, awaits the end of war, hopes and trusts in the Lord", he said.

Recalling the immense suffering of children, women, and refugees waiting for peace, Archbishop Marayati concluded: "Their cry is 'never war again' because war is always a useless massacre".

The two metropolitan Bishops of Aleppo were kidnapped in the area between the Syrian metropolis and the border with Turkey. The car on which the two Bishops were traveling was blocked by the group of kidnappers and the driver was killed cold-bloodedly. Since then, no group has claimed the kidnapping. After more than four years since their kidnapping, there is no reliable news on the fate of the two and very often the news given is unfounded.

In recent months, in a joint message, two Patriarchs of Antioch, Greek Orthodox Yohanna X and Siro Orthodox Mar Ignatios Aphrem II, have appealed to the international community to remember the two abducted metropolitans and take appropriate efforts to obtain their release. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 13/9/2017)

Published in News
Monday, 17 April 2017 11:07

Damascus: Thanks to the religious !

82 female religious from different congregation dedicate themselves modestly and with great discretion to serve the Church in Damascus… without letting others speak about them. With the help of the Spirit they provide a deep power that gives life to the charisms of the Gospel in a country which is torn apart by the war, without getting tired or scared.

1) WITNESS OF FRATERNITY : Some of them live in small communities, in their big old schools which were nationalised in 1968… others in the hospital establishments or in the simple apartments or lodgings in the midst of the people of God where they lead a life of poverty, prayer and praise.

2) LISTENING: These consecrated religious are available to welcome and to listen to these poor people. A first aid mission especially during these years of war and solitude… They store up in their hearts all the sufferings and the concerns of the small people forgotten in misery and incertitude… In front of helplessness, these Consecrated women form with love and tenderness, a Wall of Lamentation while assuring a charitable presence for the impoverished families.

3) FACES OF COMPASSION : the commitment of our Sisters at the service of the families is expressed by their presence in the nurseries, the schools, the dispensaries, the soup kitchens and in the catechism and religious formation centres …. To welcome their heroic mission in the hospital sector and the caring of the sick, many of whom are war casualties, developing a suitable pastoral ministry of the sick and the elderly…

4) FUTURE ASSETS : The Sisters’ pilot mission is still focused on the schools and on the formation of children and youths … Through this pedagogical service they transmit the values of peace, tolerance and dialogue, pledges of rebuilding a destroyed Native Country and of Ecclesial Renewal… In this domain they welcome all forms of psychological support to help those who suffered badly from the war and the youths marked by violence, delinquency and exclusion…

5) HEARTFELT THANKS : Doesn’t this beautiful witness of hidden and unknown light deserve some gratitude and acknowledgement ? Dearest Consecrated Women in Damascus, only the RISEN CHRIST is capable to thank you and to bless you.

Easter 2017

† Samir NASSAR

Maronnite Archbishop of Damascus

Published in Shared reflections
Monday, 10 April 2017 13:45

In Syria: the courage to hope

Death has not stopped hitting Syria! After 6 years of war children are still dying … the number of victims and refugees is still growing! The country is destroyed because of sufferings and injustice!

Yet hope has not died! War and daily struggles do not undermine the courage of people and of the Sisters who live there! The will to live and to build peace are stronger than fear and death. In Damascus, ours Sisters work untiringly to help the families and try to support as much as possible the younger ones.

Through educational activities they offer a chance of serenity which helps the children grow and face the difficult situation they live in and the traumas they suffer daily. Our Sisters work in difficult conditions, nonetheless they try to offer material help distributing food and medications and helping those who lost their house to get another one, never giving up before difficulties!

Words cannot express what people are going through, they lost everything yet they are stronger than despair and fear …

With the people of Syria, and with our Sisters who are with them, at the beginning of this Holy Week we want to open our hearts to Jesus crying «I thirst! »

I thirst for peace and justice!

I thirst for your solidarity!

I thirst for a united humanity!

Published in Shared reflections
Thursday, 16 March 2017 13:10

SYRIA Six years of conflict

15th March 2017 - The Jesuits JRS: the war is not over. Wednesday, March 15 marks the sixth anniversary of the conflict in Syria. And contrary to what is reported by international media, Syria "continues to suffer." This is the key message that the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) wanted to publish through a dossier that contains a lot of data related to the situation. On Tuesday afternoon, March 14 - reads the report by Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ - "A bomb blast in the city of Homs killed one and injured several. On March 12th, a double bombing near a popular Shiite shrine in Damascus killed over fifty and scores more were left injured. Since December, the eastern areas of Aleppo have been evacuated, but the bombings continue".

Today – reads the document, sent to Agenzia Fides "an estimated 13.5 million Syrians need humanitarian assistance and children make up half of that number. Children have lost their childhood; nearly 3 million Syrian children under five have grown up knowing nothing but conflict. More than 6.3 million people are internally displaced within Syria. About 4.9 million others (the majority women and children) have fled to neighbouring countries in the Middle East, including Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq. These have put the host communities under huge strain as they shoulder the social, economic and political fallout. Hundreds of thousands have made perilous sea voyages seeking sanctuary; no one is sure how many may have died at sea".

The big powers and the wide range of vested interests particularly the military-industrial complex - says the JRS document "continue to play havoc with lives and destinies of the Syrians. There are 'peace talks' which take place among the 'big guys'; not too many however, place too much of hope on them.
In Damascus and Homs, JRS operates education centres in parallel with child protection programs and psychosocial care for children and adults, and will launch a campaign to highlight the stories of Syrians living both inside and outside of the country. (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 15/03/2017)

Published in News
Saturday, 04 February 2017 21:59

SUDAN No water, bread, fuel, electricity

4th February 2017 - In addition to flour and fuel shortages, since early this year the inhabitants of Kadugli, the capital of South Kordofan, complain of serious problems due to lack of drinking water and electricity.

According to a local source, the city is experiencing repeated power cuts. Last week, there was a transport blockade due to lack of fuel in Kadugli. (AP) (Agenzia Fides)

Published in News
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