John Paul II Foundation / Magazine / Ecumenical groups for peace in Syria

Ecumenical groups for peace in Syria


    Since the appearance of the first internal clashes, which would degenerate into the civil war, which still bloody Syria, the voice of ecumenical bodies has been raised to condemn all forms of violence, to call for dialogue for peace in justice, to activate all forms of welcome for refugees and to promote solidarity projects in and for Syria. As has been said, and repeated many times, especially in recent years, thanks to the words and gestures of Pope Francis, ecumenical engagement helps Christians to speak with one voice, calling for an end to the war in order to begin a journey of reconciliation of memories and material reconstruction of Syria, with the hope that we can heal, slowly, the terrible wounds in the hearts and eyes of those who have suffered the pain of war.

            This ecumenical tension for Syria has given rise to initiatives and projects with which Christians have wanted to offer their personal contribution, trying to keep alive the concern for the country that carries with it the living tradition of the origins of Christianity, which have been able to coexist, for centuries, not always peacefully, with tensions between Christians and Islam. Of course, as has been noted, the ecumenical tension has not, in fact, produced a cessation of the civil war, despite numerous appeals, but this ecumenical tension has never failed, even in pandemic times. 

            Among the initiatives of the past months, one can mention at least two that are exemplary of how, in the world, Christians want to be present in and to Syria, with a spirit of sharing that goes beyond denominational and religious boundaries: in Scotland, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the civil war, on March 15, several ecumenical bodies(Scottish Faiths Action for Refugees, Edinburgh City Mission and Mustard Seed Edinburgh) organized a vigil, in webinar mode, to publicly witness Christians' solidarity with Syrians and to reaffirm their commitment to welcoming refugees in Scotland as in other European countries. The vigil was a time of prayer, in which experiences of war and solidarity were shared, with a continuous reminder of the need to listen to the Word of God in order to become promoters of justice and peacemakers. 

            A few weeks earlier is the initiative desired by the National Council of Churches in Australia, of which the Catholic Church is also a member, for a time of prayer entirely dedicated to peace in Syria: this is a time within a calendar year-long ecumenical prayer calendar, through which the Council wishes to remind Christians, not only those living in Australia, of how prayer is the privileged form of living communion, asking the Lord to intervene where, as in Syria, the hopes of men and women seem to have dried up.

            Along with ecumenical initiatives and projects, which at times have also taken on an interreligious dimension, mention must be made of the daily attention of the Middle East Council of Churches, which came into being in 1974 to be a "bridge" thanks to the concurrence of the three families of Churches (Orthodox, Oriental and Evangelical), which were joined by the family of Catholic Churches in 1990. A few days ago the Council announced that restoration work is under way on a school in Aleppo, a small sign of great symbolic value, not least because it is a school, founded in 1947, to gather the children of Armenians in the Diaspora. Over the years, this school became a place of educational excellence, in which Christians and Muslims shared educational paths, in which values were central; all of this, starting with the premises, even the oldest ones, were wiped out by the civil war, which also affected Aleppo. This restoration work, which the Council was also able to activate with the use of resources raised in Europe for this very purpose, is part of the broader project conceived by the Middle East Council of Churches to reopen the schools so as to give a home and hope to so many young people so as to defeat the temptation of these young people that only outside Syria can there be a tomorrow for them.

            These projects, like others, including those promoted by the Ecumenical Council of Churches, all the more so in a time of pandemic, where suffering and discrimination have grown in number and magnitude, are concrete signs of how the ecumenical journey has taken on the anguish and pain of Syria to give the men and women of Syria, regardless of their religious affiliation, a joy for today and a hope for tomorrow.

Riccardo Burigana

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