Trappist nuns: the Syrian people are starving as a result of 'unsustainable' international sanctions

The economic embargo is the weapon of a "global system of finance and geopolitics". It uses peoples and nations as "pawns for its own interest". The Sisters note that people “are dying from starvation,” not only from the coronavirus. Pharmacies are closed, there are no medicines. After the fighting, an "economic war" is taking place at present.


Damascus (AsiaNews) – Syrians are in an "unsustainable situation" due to war and international sanctions, weapons of a "global system of finance and geopolitics" that "uses peoples and nations as pawns for its own interest,” this according to Trappist nuns in Azeir, Syria.

For the Sisters, the civilian population is more and more the victim of world power games.  For the women religious, it is useless to "act on the effects" if the causes of suffering are not changed "upstream" and this does not only concern the Arab country.

From their monastery in the small Maronite village of central-western Syria, located between the cities of Tartous and Homs, the Trappist nuns complain of the harsh conditions people face amid conflict, economic embargo and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The people around us are starving, dying of illnesses,” writes the Superior, Sister Marta, “not because there is a virus! But because they can no longer find regular medicines for diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, heart ailments.”

Pharmacies are closed. No one imports raw materials, and the production of medicines has stopped. The Syrian pound, the nun writes, “loses value by the hour,” and “shopkeepers no longer sell stocks" because the goods lose value.

"We had hoped that Europe, having experienced precariousness and seen life threatened by the coronavirus could understand how people can live in a tragic reality of war, how sanctions can affect an already compromised situation,” said the nun.

Recently several Christian leaders have called for an end to the sanctions, to alleviate the suffering of the population. The critical voices include the Maronite archbishop of Damascus who described the country as a "pit", the apostolic vicar of Aleppo who has called the sanctions a "crime", and a Christian doctor who views them as an "obstacle" in the fight against COVID-19.

In his Easter message, Pope Francis himself called for the easing of international sanctions without explicitly citing Syria and Iran.

Whilst recognising that the problems in Syria are not only due to sanctions and that responsibility also falls on Syrian leaders, the nuns believe that “the time after the fighting is more difficult” as an "economic war" is underway over power, privileges, influence on the territory with the terrorists "still burning wheat fields in the north".

And yet "the domestic political-economic system, which has defended the country’s sovereignty, now risks jeopardising it if it does not adequately take care of the suffering of the people.”

For the nuns, the fact remains that sanctions "have been renewed,” indeed increased and their harmful effects are seen on the civilian population, on “people like me and you,” say the nuns, “men, women and children ... not politicians, not leaders. Sanctions are against the people.”

“Of course, whoever decides to impose them knows this well.” Their goal is “to drive people to bring down those who rule, to achieve what weapons could not achieve. But is it moral to use the suffering of peoples for political ends?”

“From here, even though we are in a monastery, we realise that some try to pursue other paths, a 'humanistic economy' based on culture, morals, human vision . . . Please follow these new paths.”