Bishop Boutros Marayati, Archbishop of Aleppo of the Armenian Catholics testified about the current situation of Christians in Syria during a conference on March 5, 2016 in Valencia. Bishop Marayati responded to the invitation of the Diocese of Valence (Drôme) with which a twinning is in progress.
THEidea of a twinning of the Diocese of Valence (Drôme) with the Armenian Catholic Archdiocese of Aleppo in Syria began to germinate in January 2015. It is motivated by the presence of many Armenians in Valence, some of whom have very close ties. strong with Aleppo, the plight of the Syrians and the encouragement to open up to the universal dimension of the Church and her mission.
The first acts of this twinning were a quest on August 15, 2015, and a call for donations to help Christians in Syria, then a silent march for peace in ALEP on Wednesday November 11, 2015 in Valencia. To give a face to this twinning, the Diocese of Valence welcomed Mgr Boutros Marayati, the Armenian Catholic Archbishop of Aleppo. Welcoming this guest and the participants in this evening, Mgr Pierre-Yves Michel, Bishop of Valence recalled the links which unite the Armenian community and the churches of Valence with the Armenian Christians of Aleppo.
“Be merciful as your Father is merciful… In the very heart of the trial, you are witness to hope and this desire for peace.”, Bishop Michel welcoming Bishop Marayati
Second city of Syria, Aleppo is divided in two, on one side the rebels in the government of Bashar al-Assad fire mortar and shells on the side held by the official army where the Christians took refuge. While the current ceasefire presents a relative period of calm, the destruction is still there. The Archdiocese of Aleppo has become a social center to help people suffering from war.
“Today, we have become poor, we are beggars, waiting for help which always arrives through the church. »Bishop Marayati
Aleppo is dying, it is a cry of alarm launched to save the Christians of the East. Every day people die but there is “a remnant” that of the holy scripture, a small flock because life must continue as a resurrection. Bishop Marayati recalled the genocide suffered by the Armenians to draw a parallel to the situation of Syrian Christians today. The Armenians survived this genocide. It is a resurrected people. Eastern Christians want to be able to continue living in Aleppo and Syria.
Currently, it is survival that is organized by the churches. After thanking the Christians of Drôme for their donation, he explained how, within his archdiocese he must organize the subsistence of Christian families: food basket, hygiene package, blanket, clothing, water, oil ... 650 families benefit from this help. 1000 children enrolled in 4 private schools, including 160 universities, are helped so that they can continue their studies with 150 teachers. Five-year-olds have only known war! And the sick must also be helped ... 5 hospitals existed in Aleppo, only 100 are operational today. In support of its description, a video in Armenian showed the destruction, and the experience of Christians among these ruins.
How to rebuild this martyred city? Half of Aleppo is destroyed, half of the churches have been looted, burned… Half of the Christians have fled, to Lebanon, France, Canada… for fear of dying. But the rest wants to rebuild… Teams of architects, building engineers and site managers take stock of the houses affected, and families are helped to rehabilitate their houses. Rebuild as if to repair the “breaches” of the city. The wish of these Eastern Christians is to stay. They are from this country and wish to safeguard these Christian values in this Middle East where Christians have been present since 1er century long before Islam. Paul became a Christian in Damascus, the capital of Syria. It was in Antioch, 80 km from Aleppo that the disciples of Christ took the name of Christians.
“This is why, as the Pope says, the Middle East must remain Christian. We cannot understand the Middle East without Christians ”Mgr Marayati
- Diocese of Valence (@ Cathos26) March 5, 2016
Despite all this chaos, this very dirty war, Bishop Marayati shared with us three positive things that the Christians of Aleppo have learned and are living today in Aleppo.
- Faith: it is a strong moment in the hope of the faithful, the churches are full. People believe and pray more than before, as Christ taught, evil spirits only come out through prayer and fasting. And the faithful of Aleppo only repeat with the psalmist: he is my rock, he is my salvation, my light. The faith and confidence of these Christians is an encouragement for the pastors of these churches.
- The spirit of unity, of ecumenism to work together: In Aleppo, 11 Christian communities are established: 6 Catholic, Armenian Catholic, Maronite, Melkite Greek, Chaldean, Syriac Catholic, and Latin Catholic churches arrived with the Crusaders; 3 Armenian, Greek and Syrian Orthodox churches, 2 Protestant, Armenian and Arab churches. Regular meetings of all the churches make it possible to organize daily life. "We are all together, Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox ... We can no longer make any difference" At the same time it is the ecumenism of blood, the martyrdom of Christians which affects all the churches, and the ecumenism of solidarity, unity of service where there is no difference between Catholics, Orthodox or Protestants. "We are stronger together, we help each other together"
- Solidarity: "We are united, before we lived each for himself now we take care of others". The people who lived in their shells now help each other. There is a charity, a compassion, a help that is open. Even moderate Muslims (they are not all terrorists or jihadists). who accept the other, help Christian families.
“We are in Aleppo and we will stay. It is true that we are a small flock, but it is the flock of Jesus… and those who remain, we know that God is with us ”Mgr Marayati
A path of reconciliation will have to be found so that Christians in Aleppo and Syria can live peacefully. In the questions that followed the conference, Bishop Marayati underlined the command of Jesus who asks us to love and pray for our enemies. This prayer which implores his Love or which asks to "change my heart of stone so that it becomes a heart of flesh", a heart of loving blood.
Photo credit: Nathanaël Bechdolff
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