.- Maronite Archbishop Samir Nassar of Damascus spoke out against the violent conflict between government and rebel forces in Syria, drawing particular attention to the plight of refugees.
“In this period of mindless violence, our voices are drowned by the long ordeal of the country and by a complexity that is blocking any diplomatic solution.
The country is sinking in sorrow and gratuitous violence and there is still no end in sight, we have been in a protracted conflict for more than sixteen months,” he told Fides news agency.
The archbishop’s comments came before a July 18 bomb attack at a high-level crisis meeting that killed three government leaders, including President Bashar Assad’s brother-in-law and the defense minister.
Defense Minister Dawoud Rajha was the most senior Christian government official in Syria. Syria’s Christians, who make up 10 percent of the population, tend to support the government.
Rebels tend to draw support from the majority Sunni Muslim population.
The rebels claimed responsibility for the bombing. Riad al-Assad, a commander of the various rebel forces, said he hoped that the president would be the next to die, the Associated Press reports.
Archbishop Nassar focused on the non-combatant victims of the ongoing conflict.
“On the streets of Damascus you see people fleeing, there are refugees who, desperate, cross the city in search of a refuge,” he said. “The lack of charity structures, the embargo and the limited resources available do not help to face this emergency and contribute to fuelling anxiety.”
He condemned the “terrible phenomenon” of kidnapping people for ransom, saying unemployment and insecurity have encouraged the practice.
Victims are often abducted from school and work, he said.
“One should see the panic and anxiety of families struggling to collect from relatives, neighbors, friends and parishes a sum of money sufficient to save a kidnapped son, brother or father,” he continued. “This horrible practice paralyzes social life.”
He noted a weakening of faith, with children no longer attending catechism classes and adults no longer taking part in pastoral activities.
“Many Christian families, terrified, think only about how to leave the country.”
He said that people “suffer, hope, escape, pray” and remember the Martyrs of Damascus, three brothers martyred in a Turkish persecution in 1860. They were commemorated on July 10.
The United Nations Security Council was scheduled to vote on a new Syria resolution on Wednesday but delayed it until Thursday to try to secure an agreement on measures to end the violence, the Associated Press says.
Russia, a close ally of Syria, is strongly opposed to sanctions and any mention of the use of force to end the conflict.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has accused the West of inciting Syria’s opposition, which is widely perceived to be too disorganized to take over.
The Obama administration is pushing for a change of government in the country and has put new financial sanctions on the government.
The Syrian government’s supporters include Iran and Hezbollah and Palestinian militant groups. Some factions of the Syrian rebels include al-Qaida-linked militant Islamic groups who have conducted what Aid to the Church in Need called “ongoing ethnic cleansing” of Christians in cities like Homs.
On July 14 Franciscan Fr. Romualdo Fernandez, Director of the Ecumenical Centre of Tabbaleh, told Fides that if foreign powers continue to arm and finance the warring parties “the war will continue and victims will increase.”
The armed revolt against President Assad began in March 2011. It has claimed over 10,000 lives.