SYRIA – Will we become the Guardians of Rocks, Pebbles and Stones?
Six years of war have finally shaken the Syrian society’s safeguard: THE FAMILY, which was the primary cell that absorbed the shocks and misfortunes of the never ending violence and that saved the country and the Church until 2014. Insecurity, intolerance, violence and chaotic destruction have uprooted more than two million families. Deprived of shelter and spread all over, how can families possibly endure such a heavy Calvary?
After the beginning of the war (March 15th 2011) the family quite frequently became centered around the mother. It is men who go to war and often die. A popular saying says: “a fatherless child is not an orphan.” The family continues to be centered around the mother, who ensures the unity and survival of the household. In this long and heavy sufferance, these heroic mothers live amidst misery and tears. They’ve honored their vocation while living under tents. Is there a bigger sacrifice?
Exodus of the Youth
The general mobilization, decreed on October 2015, invites younger men under 45 years old to join the military service. This decision disturbed all those families that weren’t able to leave the country and were waiting in situ for this endless war to end. This age bracket is the spinal cord of the economic activities that remain. Youths disappeared quickly: some of them decided to join the army, while others decided to escape the war. This in turn meant an irreversible clandestine emigration, which in turn destabilized the labour market and the modest family life which was deprived of resources. Is there a future for a community without young people?
The effects of the above-mentioned changes weakened the Church. Families usually chose to follow the child that emigrated. This explains the accelerated exodus of families and the diminishing number of parishioners in all parishes. In addition, young women have to marry Muslim polygamists because there are no young men left. Because of the demographic unbalance, there are fewer marriages and fewer baptisms. For the first time, the Church is facing a crucial problem: one in three priests has chosen to leave Damascus for more peaceful countries. How can we retain priests in Damascus? What will our Church become without priests?
Guardians of rocks/pebbles/stones
The ghost towns in the north of Syria are an illustration of what we might become… How can we avoid becoming guardians of rocks, pebbles and stones? It is up to the Christians of the East to rethink their vocations and live like the little Primitive Minority Church: without any guarantees or protection. Will we be able to erase this Apostolic Challenge?
Archbishop Samir Nassar of Damascus