Maronite Archbishop Samir Nassar of Damascus.

Archbishop Samir Nassar: ‘Syria – Living an Anticipated Lenten Fast’

Report by Aid to the Church in Need

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According to Maronite Archbishop Samir Nassar of Damascus, the continuity of the humanitarian aid projects within the country is in danger

The economic situation in Syria is growing worse. “The present crisis, which is different to what we experienced during the days of the war, has compelled the people to live a sort of anticipated Lenten fast. Simply managing to put food on the table has become a daily nightmare.” So says Archbishop Samir Nassar in a message to the headquarters of the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN International). Owing to the economic crisis, which is a consequence not only of the war but also of the economic embargo imposed on the country by the Western powers, the ordinary people are facing rationing of various basic essentials. “The shortage of fuel, domestic gas supplies, and electricity has plunged the most vulnerable – the fragile, the sick, children and the elderly – into obscurity coupled with deadly freezing temperatures”, Archbishop Nassar lamented.

Living out the Passion of Christ before Holy Week

For her part Sister Maria Lúcia Ferreira, of the congregation of the Sisters of Unity in Antioch, also confirmed to the Portuguese office of ACN that “things are getting much worse”.

“For example, gas can only be exchanged in return for vouchers, and each family is allowed just one gas bottle per month”, she explains, adding that the situation is so serious for some families that they can “scarcely afford to buy food”. “Those who arrive late come away empty-handed…”. In the same way, she explains, “there is a shortage of fuel for heating the houses; the electricity supply cuts out almost every day and people’s money is worthless and less each month.”

According to Sister Maria, one of the reasons for the current situation is the crisis in neighboring Lebanon, since much of the funding that used to come via Lebanon is now impossible to get.

It is an assessment with which Archbishop Nassar concurs. He insists that the banking crisis in the neighboring country is imposing grave obstacles on the humanitarian aid supplied for Syria by other countries in the world. What the Archbishop describes as the “road of Simon of Cyrene” – in other words of solidarity with those who are carrying the cross – has been “blocked without compassion”, resulting in an overall worsening of conditions everywhere.

Among other things, the crisis in Lebanon has resulted in the freezing of the accounts of the Syrian people, including both the company accounts and private accounts, from which formerly what Archbishop Nassar describes as the “movements of charity” originated. According to the Archbishop, the present situation has also made things harder for the Church, which is now nothing more than “a Wall of Lamentation where one comes to weep, to cry for help, and look without ostentation and silently, for some consolation, to live out the passion of Christ before Holy Week.”

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