Bishop Nassar: young people, Church and families victims of Syrian war

Once an "anchor of salvation", today the family is "in tatters" and its identity "lost". Young people struggle amidst enormous "torment", torn between the battlefield and lack of economic prospects or work. The Church called to "question itself" about the future and how to continue the mission. 

Damascus (AsiaNews) - Families, young people and the Church: these are among the "victims" who have "suffered" the most in these 11 years of war and who today are reaping "the bitter fruits" of the "violent storms" that have upset "the tranquillity" of Syrian society, writes Msgr. Samir Nassar, Maronite Archbishop of Damascus, in a reflection sent to AsiaNews.

His message is for the faithful, inviting them to "row against the tide" to revive a nation plagued by war and sanctions, which have exacerbated the "bombs" of hunger and poverty. The prelate speaks of 'changes' that are reminiscent of the twilight years and 'structural mutations' that raise growing questions about pastoral traditions. This is why a new method of 'Christian witness' is needed to lift the fortunes of an increasingly weakening community. 

The words of the Archbishop of Damascus echo the gravity of the situation faced by the country and the Church, which risk being overwhelmed by a framework of growing regional and international tensions and conflicts.

A Unicef study speaks of more than 6.5 million children in Syria and a further 2.8 million children abroad who are dependent on economic aid and support for survival. Added to this are the repeated attacks by the Turkish army across the border, which risk triggering a new spiral of violence. 

The first victim of the war and sanctions is the family, the basic element of Syrian society that was for a long time the country's "lifeline" and is now "in pieces" and with a "lost identity". The family, the prelate recounts, is today 'dispersed, deprived of resources, without shelter, overwhelmed by pain, devastated by disease'.

In the past, the elderly were the leaders and guides, while today 'they are increasingly isolated and find no help'. "Forced to row against the tide during these years of violence, can this broken and fragile family," the prelate wonders, "remain standing? 

Then there is the plight of young people, who struggle amidst enormous 'torment'. "In the past, young people," emphasises Monsignor Nassar, "were the strength of our society, now they are torn between the war fronts on the battlefield and the massive and prolonged evasion of military service, in a framework of general mobilisation".

The prelate speaks of an "enormous number of young people" who "abandon the country, leaving behind an enormous void. Their absence is felt in economic activities, creating a marked lack of manual labour and a weakening of the already fragile local economy'. This is why, he continues, it is necessary to work to 'ensure the survival' of a nation 'deprived of its workforce'. 

Finally, among the victims of more than a decade of jihadist conflicts and violence, of internal struggles and attacks from outside, both economic and military, Msgr Nassar also includes the Church, which is called to "question itself" about its future and the steps to be taken to continue its mission.

He refers "There have been no baptisms or marriages in the last eight months. The collapse in sacraments is a trend that has continued for at least five years now. And the lack of young people has serious repercussions on parish life".

Sunday services and activities, catechism, first communions and community initiatives "have decreased considerably" and "contribute to the exodus also of priests" who have seen their role "reduced to a minimum" and are prey to a "profound discouragement". This is why, the prelate concludes, it is necessary to find new ways for mission and to relaunch the value and Christian presence in a nation that is "beloved and tormented" as Pope Francis has repeatedly said.