Syria: Not a Place on the Map, But an Ensemble of People

Leader of Jesuit Refugee Services Says Military Intervention Would Be a Disaster

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A military intervention in Syria will not give the results anyone wants. Instead, everyone will be the loser, and there will be no victor.

This is the assertion of Jesuit Father Nawras Sammour, the director of the Middle East and North Africa region for Jesuit Refugee Services. The priest, a native of Aleppo, affirmed this in an interview with the charity Aid to the Church in Need.

Speaking from Damascus, Father Sammour said that military intervention would lead to “an increase in violence: a terrible escalation” that would have ramifications in the whole region.

He insisted that the Syrian crisis is too complex to be resolved with a foreign military operation, adding that no one can foresee the long term results.


Father Sammour said that in Damascus, everyone is “living in expectation” of a foreign military attack, though “life generally continues as before the threat of war.”

As the citizens go about their days — often without electricity — there is no general consensus about whether military intervention will occur, he observed. Still, many have begun to stockpile food, and those with the possibility of fleeing the country have done so.

“Those, like me, who wish on the other hand to stay in Syria, avoid going abroad for fear of being blocked out, given the hostilities. Together with some brothers we have just cancelled a trip to Lebanon precisely for this reason,” Father Sammour explained.

The Jesuits are helping more than 17,000 Syrian families, 80% of which are Muslim. 

More than territory

The Jesuit priest welcomed wholeheartedly Francis’ appeal for peace and the designation of Saturday as a global Day of Fasting and Prayer.

“Now more than ever we are in need of prayer,” he said.

“Pope Francis’ language included anyone who supports the values of peace and integration and, fortunately, many Syrians love and respect their fellow citizens, of whatever creed or social level, regardless of the information spread by the media that lead one to believe the opposite,” the priest stated.

Father Sammour lamented that the media is “always hunting for extremists,” but that the “silent majority” of the nation has a desire for unity.

While waiting to see what will happen in the next few days, Father Sammour asked the international community to look at his country with less superficiality: “Syria isn’t a map on Google earth. It’s not a territory to invade or liberate. It’s not merely a place but a wonderful mosaic. Syria is first of all an ensemble of people: the Syrians. And I hope that this will finally be taken into consideration.”

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