Syria saved by the nuns of Damascus
Syria saved by the nuns of Damascus
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With the approaching of Easter, the Maronite archbishop of Damascus, Samir Nassar, recounts the Sisters’ humble evangelical service that still gives hope to the people
How to bring comfort and hope to a nation devastated for over 5 years by war? How do you revive hearts wounded by grief? How can Christ bring his salvation to the desperate and resigned Syrian people, who cannot see an end to this violence? The Maronite archbishop of Damascus, Samir Nassar answers these questions directly to Vatican Insider “It’s done through seventy-nine sisters from various religious congregations who live in the Christian community of Damascus”; some of these communities have been in Syria for over two hundred years.
Nassar is head of the Damascus archeparchy that, before the war, counted more than 20 thousand Maronite Catholics. Now, with the flow of refugees and expatriates, it is difficult to estimate a right number.
But, for the benefit of the families who haven’t fled the country, “the religious unpretentiously take care of the next and, with discretion, bring a smile and a hug to everyone they meet on their way.”
“They are the true force that gives life to the Gospel. They are the ones that make the Holy Spirit present in our daily life, placing themselves at the service of the believers, the poor, the suffering,” the archbishop said while preparing the celebrations for the Easter Triduum, in which he will mention and give credit to the consecrated women whose daily work remains in the dark.
“The first Gospel witness that they offer - he continues - is that of fraternal life. Some live in school buildings, that were nationalized in 1968. Other live in hospitals, modest apartments or houses located in cities, in the midst of God’s people, leading a life of poverty, prayer and praise. “This life, he adds, “is a burning flame that gives light, just by existing, in moments of darkness and despair.”
The nuns of Damascus work in the shade, and represent a permanent point of reference for the local people, “They are always willing to listen. These consecrated sisters are always available to welcome and listen to the less fortunate, the injured, the poor, and the ill. A basic need in these years of war and isolation. The hearts of those who feel forgotten hold all the misery and uncertainty, all the sufferings and problems accumulated over time. Thanks to their humble acceptance, these religious, give love and affection, they are a ’Wailing Wall’, a safe haven that provides a beneficial and comforting presence for all the families in need.”
The Archbishop said, “Today the Syrian people are searching for compassion, a face that inspires and offers compassion. And they have found it in our sisters. They serve in households, kindergartens, schools, free clinics, in the catechetical and religious educational centers. I would like to make a special mention for their heroic mission in the health sector. Their activities for the care of the sick and the many wounded by the war have allowed developing a pastoral of particular closeness to the sick. Through their hands, Christ heals the wounds of the wounded and mutilated in Syria.”
The religious are also an essential anchor for the future building of Syria, a nation tried by war for too many years: “The basic mission of our dear sisters – Nassar notes - remains centered on schools and on children and youth education. In this valuable educational service, they transmit peace, mercy, tolerance and dialogue, much needed values to rebuild a devastated country and be able to think of a renewal of the ecclesial community.”
“I would also like to emphasize the important psychological support offered by the sisters to the wounded and especially to the frightened and traumatized children, their efforts to eradicate from their hearts the images of violence, or the sense of abandonment,” the Maronite Archbishop remarks to Vatican Insider.
On the eve of Easter, Nassar intends to “Thank the Blessed Sisters: the fruitful witness to the Gospel of light, given every day by the nuns of Damascus, deserves our gratitude and deep appreciation. Thanks to people like them, life in Syria continues and people have not lost hope. Thanks to consecrated sisters of Damascus, the Risen Christ can bring blessing, salvation, strength to the Syrian people.”