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Tuesday, 04 February 2014 21:06

SYRIA The tragedy of the humanitarian crisis

4 February 2014 -“What is happening is entirely unacceptable. We are concerned over the growing instability that is not only threatening the region, but the entire world”: this is the appeal that arrives from Rome (Italy), where a third meeting closed today of the UN-promoted high-level Group on the humanitarian challenges in Syria.

The participants, including UN Under-secretary general Valerie Amos, also criticized the Geneva II Conference that “focused on the political aspects” and “did not make progress on the humanitarian side”. Italy’s Foreign minister Emma Bonino, hosting the meeting, spoke of her frustration and defined it “the worst humanitarian crisis of our times”.

 “Practically everything is ready to be taken into Syria to alleviate suffering” but diplomacy and negotiations have failed to ensure access, added the minister. The sides, continued Bonino, “ignored the appeals” and “have a great moral responsibility”.

 The conflict underway for nearly three years in the country has left some 130,000 dead, internally displaced over 7-million and forces 2-million to flee to neighboring countries. After ten days of talks, the Geneva II Conference closed on Friday without accords or concrete results. The meetings will resume in the Swiss city on February 7. [AdL/BO]

Published in News

At the end of the Angelus, on Sunday, January 26, the Holy Father sends greetings to the people who celebrate the Lunar New Year. Pope Francis noted: "In the coming days, millions of people who live in the Far East or who are scattered in various parts of the world, among them Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese, celebrate the Lunar New Year.

I wish all of them a life full of joy and hope. May the irrepressible yearning for fraternity, which dwells in their hearts, find in the intimacy of the family a privileged place to be discovered, educated and realized. This will be a valuable contribution to the building of a more humane world, where peace reigns". (SL) (Agenzia Fides 27/01/2014)

Published in News
Wednesday, 25 December 2013 22:33

SYRIA “Our Christmas under the bombs”

24 December  2013 - The suburbs of Aleppo, in the hands of rebel forces, have been for days under the bombing of government aviation. According to various sources, the military offensive has already caused more than two hundred deaths. "In the meantime – says the Jesuit Antoine Audo, Chaldean Bishop of the metropolis of Syria to Fides Agency - "in the central areas of the city, mortar fire coming from the outlying areas in the hands of the rebels continue, and continue to cause casualties. Sometimes we hear from afar the thunder of the bombing of the army, but we do not have reliable information with regards to the effects of that offensive. The power shortages do not allow you to connect to the internet or watch television. And of course there are no newspapers".

Bishop Audo describes a contradictory situation, where there are tragic events and the desire for normality, and testimony of redemption and hope: "I have just finished a meeting of coordination with surgeons who have decided to remain in order to assist people across the city who need surgical operations. The work of Caritas continues, and also the pastoral initiatives in view of Christmas. Last week I started a Bible study, and there were more than fifty children. It seems an incredible contradiction. But we try to encourage our Christian people to live concrete initiatives that are also a strong sign of the will not to give up, to continue to hope even in the absurd situation in which we find ourselves. We will not carry out the Christmas vigil at night for security reasons. The liturgical celebration will take place in the afternoon". (GV) (Agenzia Fides)

Published in News

12 December 2013 - Storm Alexa makes the living conditions for hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees who fled the war zone unbearable. "In the boundless Zaatari refugee camp" refers to Fides Wael Suleiman, Director of Caritas Jordan - the storm has also destroyed many tents. Everybody suffers. As Caritas we have intensified the distribution of blankets and stoves.

Since the beginning of the refugee emergency, we have assisted 200 thousand. But they keep coming, even with the snow and the cold, and we cannot meet the needs of all these women, children and men fleeing war and have to face a life of hardship and suffering". Only on December 11, more than 700 new Syrian refugees arrived in Jordan. In early December, the number of Syrian refugees present in Jordanian territory had reached a whopping one million and 322 thousand people. And the same climate emergency hits refugees in Lebanon, especially in makeshift camps in the Bekaa Valley and the district of Akkar, where at least 80 thousand people live in tents covered by snow.

The Syrians fleeing the mountainous region of Qalamun, also covered with snow, which in recent weeks has intensified the armed conflict between the army and rebel factions continue to arrive in Lebanon. Even Maalula is covered in snow, the village where nuns of the monastery of Santa Tecla abducted in recent days by rebel groups. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 12/12/2013)

Published in News
Tuesday, 03 December 2013 20:59

SYRIA "True martyrs in Maalula"

3 December 2013 -  Patriarch Gregory III: "We are determined to remain in this blessed land even at the cost of martyrdom and martyrdom of blood. This has already happened to some of our faithful, such as the three men from Maalula, Michael Taalab, Antonios Taalab and Sarkis Zakhem. They are true martyrs killed for refusing to renounce their faith": This is what is said in a statement sent to Fides Agency by Gregory III Laham, the Melkite Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, with headquarters in Damascus. The Patriarch expressed strong concern regarding the new invasion of the Christian village of Maalula by armed Islamist groups, who terrorized the population and took hostage 12 Orthodox nuns in the monastery of Santa Tecla.

The Patriarch remembers with joy the recent meeting of the Melkite Church with Pope Francis: "Together with the Holy Father, we invoked the flame of hope so that it would not extinguish in our hearts. Helped and sustained by the Pope’s prayers, concern and prophetic, bold and evangelical initiatives, we wish to stay in this blessed land, cradle of Christianity". The Patriarch asked the Pope to "help the Syrian Christians to remain in the Middle East" and launches an appeal: "We, Christians and Muslims, can and want to stay together, to witness the Gospel and build a new world and a better society and future for our young people.

Gregory III says that in Syria there are 9 million displaced persons. Over 1.2 million Syrians have fled to Lebanon, among them about 42 thousand Christians. Overall there are 450 thousand Christians (of various denominations) who have emigrated abroad. According to figures provided by the Patriarch, among the Syrian Christians there are about 1,200 deaths, including civilians, soldiers, nuns and priests. At least 60 churches have been damaged. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 03/12/2013)

Published in News
Friday, 29 November 2013 23:53

SYRIA Children: a damaged generation

29 November  2013 - “The world must act to save a generation of traumatized, isolated and suffering Syrian children from catastrophe. If we do not act quickly, a generation of innocents will become lasting casualties of an appalling war”, warns the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres in a report entitled: “The Future of Syria – Refugee Children in Crisis”.

Based on investigations and interviews on the ground, the report reveals that the majority of child refugees in Lebanon and Jordan suffer from severe traumas. Many have been separated from their parents and families, without access to education and, in many cases, forced into child labor.

More than half of 2.2 million Syrian refugees are children, the UN says, with many facing grave dangers even outside the war zone. Over 3,700 of these children in Jordan and Lebanon are living without one or both of their parents, or with no adult caregivers at all.

In 32 months of conflict in Syria, minors of all ages have suffered immensely, both physically and psychologically: in the first six months of 2013 in Lebanon, 741 Syrian refugee children were referred to hospitals and treated for injuries, while more than 1,000 children in Jordan’s Za’atri Refugee Camp were treated for war-related injuries over a one-year period.

The emotional reactions are common: “During focus group discussions with refugee boys, several expressed a desire to return to Syria to fight”, said the researchers adding that refugee families lacking financial resources send their children to work to assure their basic survival. In Za’atri camp, most of the 680 small shops employ children. In Jordan, nearly one in two refugee households surveyed rely partly or entirely on the income generated by a child. The report stresses that another disturbing symptom of the crisis is the number of babies born in exile who do not have birth certificates.

According to a report issued in the past days by the London’s based Oxford Research Group, more than 11,000 children have died in Syria’s civil war, many killed by bombs though also by snipers and tortured. [AdL/BO] © 2013 MISNA

Published in News
Saturday, 07 September 2013 10:48

About Syria and peace

Interview with Father General Jesuits  (www.sjweb.onfo/news)

 

Q.  The Holy Father has gone out of the way to speak for Peace in Syria, which is now under threat of a new attack by the United States and France. What do you think in this regard?

R.  It is not customary for me to make comments on situations that have to do with international or political situations. But in the present case we are dealing with a Humanitarian situation that exceeds all the limits that would ordinarily keep me silent. I have to confess that I cannot understand who gave the United States or France the right to act against a Country in a way that will certainly increase the suffering of the citizens of that country, who, by the way, have already suffered beyond measure. Violence and violent action, like what is being planned, have to always be the last resort and administered in such a way that only the guilty are affected. In the case of a Country this is evidently impossible to control and, thus, it seems to me totally unjustified. We, Jesuits, support 100% the Holy Father and wish with all our hearts that the threatened attack on Syria does not take place.

 

Q.  But, hasn´t the world a responsibility to do something against those who abuse power against their own people, like a Government using chemical weapons in a conflict?

R.  We have right here three different problems that it is important to state clearly. The first is that all abuse of power is to be condemned and rejected. And, with all respect for the people of the United States, I think that a military intervention like the one being planned is itself an abuse of power. The US has to stop acting and reacting like the big boy of the neighborhood of the world. This leads inevitably to abuse, harassment and bullying of the weaker members of the community.

The second is that if there has been use of chemical weapons we still have to probe in a way that is clear to the whole world that one party in the conflict and not the other has used them. It is not enough that some members of the punishing Government make a statement of conviction. They have to convince the world, so that the world can trust in them. This confidence does not happen today, and many have already started speculation about the ulterior motives that the USA may have in the projected intervention.

And the third, that the means considered adequate to punish the abuse do not harm the very Victims of the original abuse, once it has been proved to exist. Past experience teaches us that this is practically impossible (even if we call the victims "collateral damage") and the results increase the suffering of the ordinary innocent and poor people. We all know that the great concern of the Wise Elders and Religious Founders of all traditions and cultures was "how to reduce human suffering?"  It is very worrying that in the name of justice we plan an attack that will increase the suffering of the victims.

 

Q.  Aren´t you particularly harsh on the United States?

R. I do not think so. I have no prejudice regarding this great Country and I have a few American Jesuits working with me whose opinions and services I value very highly. I have never entertained any negative feelings against the United States, a Country that I admire on many counts, including commitment, spirituality and thought. What disturbs me most now is that precisely this country I respect so much is at the point of doing such a terrible mistake. And something similar goes for France. A Country that has been a real leader in esprit, intelligence, and that has made gigantic contributions to Civility and Culture is now tempted to bring us back to barbarism, in open contradiction of what France has been a symbol of for many past generations: That two such Countries would come together for such an outrageous measure is part of the world´s anger. We are not afraid of the attack; we are afraid of the barbarism to which we are being lead

 

Q.  But why speak out now?

R. Because the danger is now. Because the Holy Father has taken a measure that is extraordinary to indicate the urgency of the moment. To indicate that the 7th of September is a day of Fasting for the sake of Peace is an extraordinary measure and we want to join him in it. Remember that at one point in the Gospel, when the disciples of Jesus could not liberate a young man from an evil spirit, Jesus told them: "This kind of spirits cannot be driven away if not by prayer and fasting" I find it extremely upsetting that a Country that considers itself, at least nominally, Christian, could not imagine other ways of acting that would not be "military", and, instead, contribute to bring Humanity back to the law of the jungle.

Published in Light of the Word
Tuesday, 03 September 2013 16:02

SYRIA More than 2 million refugees

3 September - The number of Syrian refugees fleeing violence and in security passed the 2 million mark, the High Commissioner of the United Nations for Refugees (UNHCR) said today in a statement, adding that one year ago their number stood at 230.671.

In the last twelve months 1.800.000 people flooded the camps in Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey. According to the High Commissioner Antonio Guterres, such a displacement is “unparalleled in recent history”.

Meanwhile, in Damascus Syrian president Bashar al-Assad warns the Western powers against an armed intervention in his country: “We challenged the United States and France to show evidence. Obama and Hollande have been incapable of doing this, including for their own people.” he said in an exclusive interview to the French daily Le Figaro.

According to the president, the accusation that the Syrian army has carried out a chemical attack against the Syrian population are “illogical”. “I am neither confirming nor denying that we possess such weapons – he stated – For the sake of argument, if the army had such weapons and decided to use them, is it conceivable that it would use them in areas where its own troops are deployed and where soldiers were injured by the weapons? The UN team met with them in hospital”. Assad added that “the Middle East is a barrel of explosives” and if Syria is bombed there is the risk of “a regional war”.

In the US, president Barack Obama has sent two leading figures of the administration – the Secretary of State John Kerry and the Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel – alongside Gen. Martin Dempsey to relate on the Syrian dossier before the Senate committee for Foreign relations with a view to the congressional vote on a possible military intervention.

The debate in Capitol Hill, however, will not start before September 9, while in the next days a G20 summit will be held in Saint Petersburg and Syria will be one of its main issues. [AdL/CO] © 2013 MISNA

Published in News

30 august - Qarah - In the face of danger, the uncertain future, against the evil of war and terrorism, "powerful weapons are prayer and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament": in the Monastery of St. James in Qarah (city between Damascus and Homs), the resident community - an ecumenical community that welcomes 20 between men and women religious of 8 nationalities and of different Christian denominations – dedicate their days to pray without ceasing. Fr. Daniel Maes, a Belgian Catholic priest, head of the community, told Fides that today and in the coming days the priests and nuns will give life to a night Eucharistic Adoratio , "aware of the power of prayer and faith in the Providence of God": The community currently also houses some Muslim families (about 20 people) who have sought shelter at the convent because of the ongoing civil conflict.

But currently the whole monastery is in danger: "So far we have been saved from the war because both government forces and opposition groups have somehow protected and safeguarded us, knowing our life of prayer and hospitality.

Terrorist and jihadists groups are becoming more numerous and powerful, and as we were told, we could be the target of an attack at any moment. But where can we go? The whole community has decided to stay and pray. With confidence and hope", says to Fides Fr. Maes, who lives in the monastery next to monks and nuns from Belgium, France , Portugal, the United States, as well as Syria, Lebanon, Chile, Venezuela.

In this delicate moment, while a military attack by Western powers seems imminent, the ecumenical community of Qarah launches an appeal for peace, so that "the West acts with intelligence, responsibility and according to truth", says Fr. Maes. "A military attack - he stresses - is never a solution that generates peace, but only more hatred. Syria should return to the values that have always lived in centuries of history: coexistence and harmony among ethnic groups and different faiths, kindness, hospitality, solidarity have always characterized the Syrian society". (PA) (Agenzia Fides 29/08/2013)

Published in News

29 August -The Patriarch of Jerusalem: “Who has considered the consequences of a war for Syria and nearby nations? Is there need to bring the death toll to over 100,000?” questions the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Monsignor Fuad Twal, while the world is waiting at this point just to know the times of the imminent military intervention in Syria.

In a message today on the site of the patriarchate, Monsignor Twal questions “if anyone has considered the consequences of such a war for Syria and nearby nations?” and, more generally, “if they have weighed the consequences for the entire Middle East region?”

“According to observers, it should be a precision attack on strategic sites in an aim to impede further use of chemical weapons. We know from experience that a precision attack will have collateral effects. There will be particularly strong reactions, which could ignite the region”, insists the prelate.

“We are witnessing a logic that reminds of the preparation for the Iraq war in 2003. We must not repeat that ‘comedy of the arms of mass destruction in Iraq’ when in reality there were none”, writes Twal, calling on the world to wait for the conclusions of the UN experts on the nature of the attack and formal identity of who launched it.

 “How do you decide to attack a nation, a Country? With what authorization? Certainly the US President has the power to launch air strikes against Syria, but in all this where are the Arab League and UN Security Council? Our Western and US friends were not attacked by Syria. What gives them the right to attack a nation? Who named them the police of democracy in the Middle East?” [AdL/BO] © 2013 MISNA

Published in News
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