After ten years of war, Syria now faces a new exodus of Christians. The cause is none other than poverty that decimates 80 percent of the population. “What the war has not achieved, the economic embargo will achieve” in the West, denounces to ABC Monsignor Jean-Abdo Arbach, archbishop of the Melkite Greek-Catholic Archdiocese of Homs.
In the last decade, the Christian population of the country it has gone from 560,000 families to just 150,000. ‘Nobody knows what will happen. Christians continue to leave Syria today because although the war is no longer one of gunshots, it is an economic war, more difficult than the previous one, “explains the prelate, who warns
that “the plan to empty the Middle East of Christians continues.”
Daily life of Syrian Christians and the general population it is getting harder every day. “We have barely two hours of electricity a day. Now winter is coming and there is no gasoline. The dollar has exploded and food is very expensive. According to the archbishop, the situation is so dramatic that families must choose between eating, raising their children, getting warm, moving, or receiving medical attention. Monsignor Arbach attributes much of this precarious life to the economic blockade imposed by the United States and the European Union against the Government of Bashar al Assad.
Al Assad has led the country since 2000. In May of this year, he revalidated his mandate for a period of seven years after winning elections that were held only in those regions under the control of the Army and in the that there were no opposition representatives. Much of the international community, including the UN, said they did not recognize the validity of his victory.
“The economic blockade aims to wear down the government, but those who are actually affected are the people. A minister can buy what he wants but an ordinary citizen cannot do the same.. Before an appendix operation cost 200 Syrian pounds but now it is two million. People cannot pay. Christians no longer have patience because they want to live with dignity, “he assures.
The Greek Catholic Church also suffers from many economic hardships. In fact, Archbishop Arbach has lost several of his priests because they have chosen to leave the country. «I suffer for the salaries of my priests. It is not enough for me. Because I am sure that the economic bloc will achieve what the war has not been able to achieve: empty the country of Christians, “he adds.
In the midst of this debacle, Syrian Christians will celebrate Christmas with “many difficulties.” “It is not easy but we will do everything possible so that the children do not miss a detail”, maintains the prelate, who assures that despite all the difficulties, Syrian Christians do not lose faith.
The Christians who have been able to return to Syria after the war have been thanks to the reconstruction plan carried out by the Pontifical Association Aid to the Church in Need (ACN, for its acronym in English). In addition to numerous homes, this organization has once again build cathedrals and churches bombed and destroyed in the war. It has also financed numerous emergency projects focused on soup kitchens, micro-enterprises for the youngest, or educational centers. In the Archdiocese of Homs, it has even promoted more than 6,700 scholarships aimed at young Christians to help them with transportation to the university.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism