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    » 10/25/2012, 00.00


    Trappist nuns in Azeir, a sign of hope for Syria at war

    Located between Homs and Tartous in western Syria, the Monastery of Azeir continues to help Christians and Muslims, despite the fighting. What follows includes some excerpts from letters written by five Italian nuns living at the monastery posted online. Through simple actions like praying and gardening, the sisters have become a beacon of hope for Christians and Muslims devastated by the conflict.

    Azeir  (AsiaNews) - Amid the chaos of the Syrian civil war, when the main noise has been the sound of bombs going off and the screams of those they wounded, there are still some places where the prevailing hatred is held at bay. One of them is a Trappist monastery in the small Maronite village of Azeir, located in western Syria between the cities of Tartous and Homs.  Five Italian nuns from the Monastery of Valserena (Pisa) call it home. Despite the fighting raging around them, they chose to stay in the country. "Despite our Italian nationality," said Sister Monica, superior of the Mother House, "and the resources we might have because of it, we are part of this community and cannot leave at a time of trial. Its fate is our fate."

    In letters written over the past few months and posted on the monastery's website, the nuns describe the tragedies of the war and the suffering endured by the residents of the villages that surround them.

    For the sisters, the monastery is a tangible sign of hope. "A place where God is worshiped in his real presence, both Eucharistic and Ecclesial, through prayers and brotherly communion, is a blessing for all."

    However, "Our neighbours are discouraged," said one of the letters posted. "Even in our small village, civilians and young conscripts have been killed."

    "The country," wrote another, "has become a battleground for adversaries that are bigger than Syria, people who came to fight in this land and this people to settle their own conflicts."

    In each post, the Trappist nuns call on all Christians to pray for the Syrian population that welcomed them.

    According to them, "people want justice, freedom, democracy but also jobs and a chance to go out with the family."

    During the months of war, Muslims came to the monastery, not only to ask for basic items, but also for some comfort.

    "Some young people began turning to us because they needed someone to help them think, grow and reflect," one nun said.

    The nuns responded to such requests with their life, full of prayers and small actions, like growing vegetables in the garden and tending the orchard, which produces all sorts of fruit," another nun said.

    Bearing witness in this simple fashion helps people have hope and stand up to hatred,  mindful of the traditions of this land where Christians and Muslims have lived in peace for centuries.

    "Our trust in man comes from Christian hope and it is stronger than all the horrors," Sister Monica wrote. "Christians are called to bear witness to it in the world. Since we have been called to Syria, why leave?"

    Syria's civil war broke out in March 2011 in the wake of the Arab spring. Some 30,000 people have died since its start with almost a million forced from their homes. Some 200,000 have found refugee in neighbouring countries like Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.

    After months of fighting and appeals by the pope and the United Nations for a ceasefire, UN and Arab League special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi announced today a possible truce for the Muslim festivity of the Eid al-Adha, which will be celebrated over the week-end.

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    See also

    21/08/2015 SYRIA
    As IS destroys Mar Elian monastery, nuncio in Damascus calls for international diplomacy to save Syria
    The Jihadi militia destroys 1,600-old church. Online post shows the extent of the devastation. In May, the jihadists had kidnapped the monastery’s prior. For Mgr Zenari, news about the event is sketchy. The prelate welcomes with cautious optimism UN resolution and efforts by the international community to secure peace.

    11/03/2014 SYRIA - LEBANON
    Exchanged for the wife of an al Qaeda member, Ma'aloula Sisters shout "Allah Akbar"
    In a video, the nuns are seen thanking everyone, including the kidnappers, and calling on God to bless them. The al-Nusra Front pledges to continue its efforts until all prisoners are freed from Syrian jails. Reports says a ransom of US$ 4 million, but mediators deny.

    10/12/2013 LEBANON - SYRIA
    Lebanon asks for Qatari help in Maaloula nuns affair
    The head of Lebanese security also wants information about the two Orthodox bishops abducted last April. Questions are addressed to Al-Jazeera with regards to the source behind the video released days ago showing the sisters "detained" by Islamist insurgents. Greek-Orthodox Patriarch Youhanna calls for prayers and actions to obtain the nuns' release. Lebanese Minister criticises international community for not doing enough to deal with this abduction.

    25/06/2013 SYRIA
    Custos of the Holy Land: Fr Franҫois Mourad killed by Islamist insurgents in al-Ghassaniyah
    Fr Pizzaballa talks about the killing of the priest, new martyr in Syria. Franҫois Mourad was killed during an attack by Islamic fighters against the Monastery of St Anthony, in Idlib province. Until his death, the priest had worked with the Franciscans to alleviate the suffering of Christians and Muslims. Now the village stands completely destroyed.

    06/04/2016 19:29:00 SYRIA
    Islamic State destruction in Mar Elian monastery is “total"

    Caritas coordinator Fr Iyad Ghanem describes the devastation at the church, monastery and hostel. Jihadis blew up the saint’s tomb. At present, Al-Qaryatayn is a ghost town littered with mines and unexploded bombs, which need to be cleared. However, the greatest tragedy is the flight of Christians; for them, what is needed are "prayer and mercy."

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