At this time, the Syrian city of Aleppo has become the theater of a raging battle. The fragile truce, which gave some oxygen to the martyred population, even if officially it has not been interrupted, is now, in fact, a memory. The umpteenth missile attack of Jihadist rebels in the areas controlled by the regular army, struck a hospital, causing several victims among civilians. And the future scenarios do not seem comforting. According to the Russian press agency Interfax, the Jihadists of the al-Nusra Front are amassing ammunitions charged with chlorine in their positions at the doors of Aleppo. The desperation of the population was made known by the words of Archbishop of the Armenian Catholics of the Syrian city, Boutros Marayati. A guest of the East Sector of the diocese of Rome, the prelate met today with the clergy in the presence of Auxiliary Bishop, Monsignor Giuseppe Marciante. At the end of the meeting, he gave the following interview to ZENIT.
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ZENIT: Excellency, what is the present situation at Aleppo?
Archbishop Marayati: It is very dramatic. The cease-fire has now ended and for about a week the bombardments have started again. A rainfall of missiles has arrived in the city, which is striking the Christian quarters. Nevertheless, as churches, we are doing our utmost to help the people to remain; a new exodus is happening in Aleppo. Moreover, everything is lacking: water, electricity, and medicines. Food is diminishing and its price is very high. Our hope is that there are margins so that the parties in conflict will agree to a new period of truce. The people of Aleppo dream about the end of this atrocity, they are truly tired of suffering.
ZENIT: Who launches these missiles?
Archbishop Marayati: Aleppo is divided into two parts. One of the two is under the control of the Jihadist rebels. It is the latter that launch the missiles, bombs and mortar strikes in the other part of the city, which is controlled by the regular Army and is the place where the Christian and moderate Muslim communities live. The point is that the rebels have in hand the power plant and the aqueduct; therefore, they control the supplies and do not let them reach us. We, civilians, especially the children, are the ones who pay the highest price of this opposition between the two blocks. In this last week, the littlest ones lived hell.
ZENIT: The conflict in Syria is one that also involves foreign interests …
Archbishop Marayati: Unfortunately, it is so. There is never fighting for nothing. International interests and designs exist. The solution of this conflict is in the hands of the great powers, the United States and Russia. Both these powers want to maintain their influence in Syria. I am thinking of the presence of military bases, control of oil wells and gas plants, the outlet to the Mediterranean Sea … Intertwined with all these elements, then, is the religious aspect, which is instrumentalized. It is a war that has to do with international geopolitics, but which is consummated on the skin of the Syrians. I repeat: Washington and Moscow possess the key to access peace. We can only hope that they will come to an understanding between them to open a future of hope for Syria.
ZENIT: As long as no solution is found in Syria, the crisis of refugees in Europe will continue …
Archbishop Marayati: If Europe is truly interested in resolving the drama of the refugees, it must employ all its energies to have the war cease in Syria. Of what use is it to speak of barriers to be pulled down at the borders, when there is no commitment to help these people not to flee from their land? I always remember that, before this war began, we Syrians had never been refugees. On the contrary, it was Syria that always received people fleeing from wars: from Lebanon, from Jordan, from Iraq … And now our turn has come. Something that truly seemed unthinkable, because Syria is, historically, a country of coexistence, peace and culture.
ZENIT: What are the Christian Churches doing to stem the exodus of Christians from those lands?
Archbishop Marayati: The Christian Churches, together with the various World Friends Onlus committed in Syria, are making a great contribution, sending aid. However, the people are tired of suffering and, because of this, of having to receive help. Syrians no longer want to weep for their dead; they no longer want to see rivers of blood flowing. What we ask is that the profuse commitment to send us aid be employed to exert pressure on the international powers so that the bombardments cease.
ZENIT: Excellency, is the destiny of Middle Eastern Christians far from their land?
Archbishop Marayati: Syria needs Christians. Although a minority, they have always represented a richness. One cannot think of a Middle East without Christians, however, it is inevitable that they flee if they are under the <mortar shots> of the Jihadist rebels. And by escaping, they will continue not to find peace. A refugee always has difficulties, because he finds himself living in a different context from that which is proper to him, he is someone uprooted.
ZENIT: Is this reality evoking in you, Armenians, the specter of the Genocide of a century ago?
Archbishop Marayati: We, Armenians, are living a twofold trauma. The wound of the 1915 Genocide is not yet healed, and today we find ourselves again as refugees, fleeing from those who wish to kill us. A century ago it was Syria in fact that received us, that agreed to integrate us in Arab culture, building our independence. And today we find ourselves again having to abandon everything we built and face a new exodus. We feel nostalgia for the Syria prior to the outbreak of the war. The Armenian writer Antranik Zaruguian spoke of an “Aleppo of dreams.” Today, unfortunately, those dreams have become nightmares.