Vicar of Aleppo: Only mercy will save Syria from war and destruction
by Georges Abou Khazen*
In a pastoral letter to the faithful, Msgr. Georges Abou Khazen remembers the victims of the conflict and refugees. Only through mercy, he warns, will it be possible to restore new life to the country. The desire for a new face that is peace, where "forgiveness, reconciliation, love and solidarity prevail".

Aleppo (AsiaNews) - "Mercy" alone can save Syria, a nation that for years "has been living through a war that has cost hundreds of thousands of lives and millions of refugees." Going beyond the destruction, there is a common desire for an end to hostilities and that "a new home be reborn from the rubble", writes the Apostolic Vicar of Aleppo of the Latins, Msgr. Georges Abou Khazen, in the pastoral letter sent to the faithful on the occasion of the celebrations for the Jubilee of Mercy.

The common wish, points out, is to give a "new face" to a battered nation, that of "peace" and that " forgiveness and reconciliation, love and solidarity prevail."

On 8 December, with the opening of the Holy Door at St. Peter's, Pope Francis marked the official start of the Year of Mercy, which involves every diocese in the world with events and special celebrations. Here, below, the pastoral letter to the faithful written by the apostolic vicar of Aleppo for the start of the Jubilee of Mercy:


Two years ago I asked that during the Christmas season we practice charity towards all, without distinction. Last year I encouraged you to boost the spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation, because it is the only way to true peace. This year, the Church invites us to live Mercy. Mercy is the basis of everything; because charity and forgiveness, without mercy, are imperfect.

Mercy is the essence of religion. Islam begins with this phrase: "In the name of the Merciful God, the Compassionate" and everything must be interpreted in light of this.

In the Old Testament, God revealed himself to Moses as "I am the Lord, a God gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in love and fidelity" (Exodus 34: 6). In the Psalms the word Mercy is named more than 50 times.

And the same Jesus rebuked the scribes and Pharisees: "I want mercy, not sacrifice." (Mt 12: 7).

The concept and the word "mercy" – in Arabic "rahma" –is  derived from the root "rahm", which means "uterus, bowels," the place where life is born and takes root. Every act of charity and forgiveness that does not regenerate, that does not give life, is an act devoid of mercy. The path of mercy is two-fold: the Lord shows mercy with me and I have to show mercy with others. "Blessed are the merciful" (Matthew 5: 7).

The Mercy of God is the source of new life. My prayer, the sacraments, the Cross I bear must change me, must become a continuous daily rebirth. You were born before the world, but communion with God and our deep bond with Him become the seed of new life; and it is mercy toward others that becomes an element of change, allowing them to be born again.

In recent years Syria has been living through a war that has cost hundreds of thousands of lives and millions of refugees.  Looking beyond the destruction, we all long for the end of these hostilities and the rebirth of a new home. This birth can only come from "rahim", from within, from the depths ... and there will be no rebirth without mercy!

We have already suffered far too much from the consequences of violence and the absence of mercy of the various parties to the conflict. We have experienced the consequences of acting in the name and on behalf of a God that is far from "compassionate and merciful"!

Therefore the time has come for us all to review our hard and merciless  behavior! The place where our new home will be reborn is not far from us ... it is within us and each of us can give birth to a piece of the homeland that we really want through our behavior, within ourselves, with mercy.

A country of peace, a nation dominated by forgiveness and reconciliation, love and solidarity. These are the particles that will begin to form new life; at the beginning it may be fragile, but over time it will grow in strength, building and not destroying, sharing with others and overcoming mutual hostility.

I invite pessimists to meditate on the prophetic song of Zechariah and the Virgin Mary (Lc1: 46-55 and 1: 68-79).

So let us live mercy, confident that a merciful God will never abandon us. He shows us mercy, that we may show it to others.

* Apostolic Vicar of Aleppo of the Latins

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