Syria – Syria is not just a map on google earth

Marta Petrosillo, ACN Italy

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“A military intervention will not achieve anything. Each of the parties involved must understand that the crisis will not be resolved in the way it desires. All are losers and no one is victor, and will never be.” Father Nawras Sammour, responsible for the Middle East and North Africa in the Jesuits’ Refugees Service, condemned a possible military action in Syria.

Speaking on the telephone from Damascus to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the religious, born in Aleppo, said that “an attack could lead indisputably to an increase in violence: a terrible escalation which will compel its extension to neighboring countries, contaminating the whole Middle Eastern region.” The Jesuit finds the crisis too complex to be resolved by a military operation, of which no one can foresee the long term results.

Meanwhile in the Syrian capital, often deprived of electricity, “all live in expectation, although life continues in general as before the threat of war.” There is no unanimous opinion on the eventuality of an intervention, but many have begun to store food and in the last two weeks, those that had the possibility have left the country. “Those, like me, who wish instead to stay in Syria, avoid going abroad for fear of being blocked given the hostilities. Together with some brothers we have just cancelled a trip to Lebanon precisely for this reason,” he said.

“More than ever we are in need of prayer”

20110718_024The Jesuits are helping more than 17,000 Syrian families, 80% of which are Muslim. Pope Francis words are of great comfort for Christians. “The Holy Father’s appeal was excellent,” said Father Sammour, stating that also in Syria many will take part in the Day of fast called by the Pontiff for September 7. In the Jesuits’ House in Damascus, it will begin with Vespers tomorrow evening. “Now more than ever we are in need of prayer,” added the religious, praising the many initiatives of the universal Church to promote peace, not least the Week of Prayer organized by ACN, which will also adhere to the Day of fast next Saturday.

The Pope’s words were not only appreciated by the Christian community. The Grand Mufti of Syria, Ahmad Badreddin Hassou, expressed the hope of being able to pray next Saturday in Saint Peter’s Square. “Pope Francis’ language included anyone who supports the values of peace and integration and, fortunately, many Syrians love and respect their fellow nationals, of whatever creed or social extraction, notwithstanding the information spread by the media that lead one to believe the opposite,” said Fr. Sammour. He criticized the media for “always hunting extremists,” and opposed to this the beautiful work of the Church, which tries to give voice to the desire for unity of the “silent majority” of the nation.

While waiting to see what will happen in the next few days, Father Sammour asks the international community to look at his country with less superficiality. “Syria isn’t a map on Google earth. It’s not a territory to invade or liberate. It’s not merely a place but a wonderful mosaic. Syria is first of all an ensemble of people: the Syrians. And I hope that this will finally be taken into consideration.”

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