what first comes to mind when people ask you about Syria?
First of all, the war during these last ten years has
resulted in poverty and even misery. That’s what first comes to mind. But in
spite of everything, I have witnessed many testimonies of dignity, and a strong
sense of solidarity characterizes the Syrian people. Knowing these people gives
Tell us more
about your experience with the Christians of Aleppo.
Before the war, there was a sense of security and
economic and social stability. Syria was ranked among the most affluent
countries in the region; it was the most stable despite having a one-party
policy and a long military history. The war brought fatigue, discouragement,
and uncertainty about our country’s future, especially because of emigration.
Some 80% of the Christians in Aleppo have left. Those who remain are mostly the
old and the poor. We priests and bishops try not to show our fears about the
future; we try to stand firm and give meaning to the presence of our
Christians persecuted? Does religious affiliation play a role in this war?
I wouldn’t call it persecution, to be honest. This is
not a war of religions, as some media have tried to describe it. Christians
have been very respected socially in Syria for their work, their skills and for
their ethics as well. I have often heard Muslims say: “Christians are not
liars!” When there is persecution, it is by individuals; they are “Muslim
Brotherhood”-type extremists who believe they are doing good by persecuting “infidels”.
But this is not widespread. There is a respect for Christians and even a
certain attraction to the Gospel.
destabilizes us is the break-up of families due to emigration. Children are
scattered in different countries. The strength of families is very important in
a society with strong tribal structures. When I use the word “tribal”, I am
referring to the fact that a person’s identity is always linked to a group, to
his family. It’s not like in the West where the individual can exist on his
own. In our culture, we exist by reference to our family. So, to alleviate our
suffering and our doubts, we have to rebuild the social fabric.