Pastor of Aleppo: religions do not fuel war, faith is a source of peace
According to Fr. Ibrahim in this "tragic war" religious leaders are the only true "peacemakers". Without the intervention of Christian, Sunni and Shiite leaders Aleppo would be "destroyed". The meeting with the Grand Mufti source of peace and reconciliation. Rashideen refugees attacked to foment sectarian divisions. Amid destruction, the joy of Easter celebrations.
Aleppo (AsiaNews) - In the "tragic war" that has lasted for seven years in Syria "religious leaders are the only ones" attempting to be peacemakers; Aleppo "would have been completely destroyed," it not been for "the work of mediation and reconciliation" of Christian and Muslim leaders, Sunni and Shiite Fr. Alsabagh Ibrahim, 44 year old Franciscan, guardian and parish priest of the Latin parish of Aleppo, tells AsiaNews. He adds that the liberation of the East of the city from armed groups is the result of the "unity of intent" and "efforts" of the "men of religion who have dialogued and found a deal".
The Franciscan the end to violence in the country’s second largest city, long the epicenter of the Syrian conflict, "does not depend on Russian bombing" or military interventions in the area. The return of peace and the armed groups departure from the eastern sector of what was once the economic and commercial capital of Syria is "due to the reconciliation moves between different groups" and the intervention of the "Christian and Muslim religious leaders."
Visiting the eastern area, on completion of the evacuation of the fighters, huge quantities of weapons and missiles have emerged, as well as containers full of food and medicines. "These stocks - said the Franciscan - would have allowed the armed groups to continue fighting for years, destroying the city."
Yesterday the leaders of the local Christian communities met the Grand Mufti of the Syrian Republic, Sheikh Ahmad Badr El Din Hassoun, on an official visit to Aleppo. "The Grand Mufti - says Fr. Ibrahim - gave a beautiful speech, inspired by moderation and entirely focused on peace and reconciliation. "
"We as Christian leaders – he adds - have renewed our availability, our hands are outstretched to continue along this path of peace. We do not want to allow a conflict of religion or one internal to rites, between Sunnis and Shiites like neighboring Iraq or Lebanon" during the years of civil war. The priest continues, "our commitment as Christian leaders is to strive for peace. We promote these meetings with Muslim leaders, we agree on visits and openness to dialogue with the Sunnis and Shiites. The task of the religious leaders is this: to be elements of peace, preserving the unity of civil society, the country and protecting the dignity of man."
Fr. Ibrahim has harsh words to describe the recent attack on the humanitarian convoy to Rashideen, near Aleppo. "What happened - he says - is a painful act that tore at hearts and left great bitterness." The agreement reached on the evacuation, he said, was "a result of reconciliation among people under siege of armed militias." The area was under the control of the leader of the Army of Islam, one of the militia groups fighting in Syria, "he made the deal and then blew it up." A "heartbreaking" act which hides "an attempt to fuel the discord between Sunnis and Shiites." "What we saw in Aleppo - says the Franciscan - we have already seen several times in Homs in the past scene of attacks against Alawites and Shiites."
For Aleppo’s Christians there was however, the joy of spending Easter in peace and reconciliation. "People came back to fill churches, more crowded than in years - says Fr. Ibrahim - and even the streets and squares were filled with cheering people. There have been various religious celebrations and public prayers, particularly around the destroyed churches where functions are held in the name of peace and serenity. "
Starting from Palm Sunday, the priest continues, we have "felt and experienced joy and peace, which are the results of the resurrection of Christ. Now we will move forward with even greater strength and conviction to proclaim peace to others, as Christians bearing the fruits of Jesus' word to others." The situation is still difficult, he adds, and many people "bear the marks of violence, deep wounds, at a psychological level material and spiritual destruction. Water and electricity are still lacking, but the message of an empty tomb remains a sign of hope and warms the heart. "
The war, said Father. Ibrahim, "has had a side-effect of bringing many people back to the church and to rediscover their faith." "We draw strength for healing from Christ, hoping that he can bring back the joy and peace not only to Aleppo and Syria, but throughout the Middle East. Only Christ can give this joy and be a source of healing, as Pope Francis said in the Urbi et Orbi Easter blessing. "(DS)