Last week I returned from my trip to North America. Our friends there, and especially Christians, who heard my call for peace and the protection of our poor suffering faithful, seem to have well understood my message, paying more and more heed to the importance of our presence in Syria, its importance to our own community and that of the entire world. The Universal Church finds in us the descendants of the first faithful, those who were baptized on the First Pentecost and who had the honor of baptizing Paul, the Apostle of nations. They were called, in those days, pejoratively, “Nazareans,” after the miserable Crucified One to whom they vowed their existence, Jesus of Nazareth. In New York, seat of the United Nations, where I had the chance to defend our cause, in the presence of delegates from many nations, the reaction of the audience was encouraging, as many among the listeners expressed their warm feelings for us and their desire to do something concretely to help us.
I returned home full of hope and joy, bringing with me good news with which to console and encourage those under my care! Alas, the city was in chaos and our faithful were being terrorized. The days just before my return had been terrible, as the people of Aleppo had thousands of bombs rain down upon them—some say as many as 2500—wounding many innocent victims, again destroying a hospital, a rest home, a school and a great number of homes. A good number of those who had been hesitant about leaving Aleppo were now scurrying to depart for more tranquil places and milder skies—it made us suffer, but we understood why they were doing so. They are afraid for their children and no longer know how to protect them from the barbarism of these merciless beastly mercenaries. For more than four years now jihadists have not stopped mistreating Aleppo residents with hate, violence, destruction and shameless callousness. It would seem they want to completely destroy the secular society that stands in the way of their Salafism, along with a humanist culture that challenges their ignorance.
True, in the face of what is happening, what remains to be said? Is this a civil war, a revolution, or simply a war fought by proxy, sponsored from abroad and utilizing terrorists to occupy and dominate the country? Whatever the case may be, never before in history has a city found itself the target of intensive, unceasing bombing for five years. The damages are beyond calculation. In this poor country ravaged by savages recruited from around the world victims are counted by the hundreds of thousands and the displaced by the millions. It’s hard to keep a count of those who have emigrated, and the relatively small number of Christians remaining are already leaning toward following suit. It is a deadly phenomenon, a form of deportation and an unprecedented exodus—what unhappiness.
Faced by what is happening to us today, humanly speaking there is nothing to do but to despair, lower our arms and let ourselves be slaughtered. But, strengthened by the Hope given by our faith in Him who has promised to stay with us, and confident in his divine mercy—which has not failed to send us brothers and men and women of good will coming to our aid. We will redouble our efforts to help our people and we will fight until our last breath, because a sacred mission obliges us to do so: the survival of Christians in Syria, blessed land that saw the birth and growth of the Church of Christ. We will do everything in our power to allow this Church to continue its prophetic mission in this part of the world, this land sanctified by the blood of countless martyrs.
Please keep us in your prayers and thank you for your support.
May 20, 2016
Archbishop Jeanbart is the Melkite Metropolitan of Aleppo.
Aid to the Church in Need is an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries. www.churchinneed.org (USA); www.acnuk.org (UK); www.aidtochurch.org (AUS); www.acnireland.org (IRL); www.acn-aed-ca.org (CAN) www.acnmalta.org (Malta)