2012-06-16 Vatican RadioFrom Syria, news of the massacre of innocent people of all ages and religious beliefs continues to arrive daily. For more than 15 month the toll has continued to rise. Now, more and more people are concluding that the county is approaching a state of civil war.
A country that had been characterised by peaceful coexistence between various components of the Muslim world, and where even ecumenical relations between Christians of different confessions and rites, and interfaith relations between Christians and Muslims, have traditionally been peaceful – witness Pope John Paul II’s unforgettable visit in 2001 – has now descended into violence and chaos. Syria risks disintegration, and there appears to be no way out. The apostolic delegate to Syria, Archbishop Mario Zenari, has described it as a “slow descent to hell”.
Young Syrians have felt the winds of change that have swept through other countries throughout the region. Their expectations of freedom and of greater participation in political life have not been heard by those who govern the country. Meanwhile, violent elements have inserted themselves among the forces of the opposition, and they continue to gain ground.
Despite the frequent appeals of the Pope, and of many other religious and civil leaders, the international community so far seems incapable of reacting effectively. Certainly the fact that Syria has a particularly delicate place in the international political balance affects peace efforts. But Kofi Annan’s plan hasn’t made any progress and the possibility of armed international intervention is very worrying. How long will the trend of violence continue to grow? How long will people die, or be forced to flee from their homes?
For believers it is a time for compassion and prayer. A time to help, as much as possible, those who are suffering. A time to call for and support initiatives of dialogue. It is a time for glimmers of hope. We must neither forget nor abandon Syria.