BY Peter Diamond | March 2 2018 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

1-SYRIA

Catholic Scotland unites in solidarity with Syrians

Bishop William Nolan asks for prays of peace for the traumatised nation

Scottish Catholics should pray for all sides in the Syrian conflict to recognise the futility of fighting and seek peaceful settlement, according to the Bishop of Galloway.

Bishop William Nolan this week joined voices from across the Catholic world in calling for donations and support for the Syrian people who have suffered under the seven year conflict.

Bishop William Nolan called on Scotland’s Catholics to pray that all sides in the Syrian conflict ‘will recognise the ­futility of the fighting and seek to negotiate a settlement.’

“The people of Syria need help. The conflict makes it difficult for those most in need to receive that help,” he said.

Pray for Peace

“Aid to the Church in Need have been supporting the people of Syria since the start of the war and I recommend ACN to all those who wish to give practical help to a people that has been suffering all too long.

“Syrian refugees are often traumatised by what has happened to themselves and their families. Thankfully those who have arrived in Scotland have received a warm welcome from local communities.

“The willingness of so many people to befriend Syrian and other refugees is to be commended.”

Bishop Nolan also urged all Catholics to give their prayers to the victims of the Syrian war stating that only peace and prayer can bring an end to their trauma.

“What can we do to help the people of Syria?” the bishop said. “I asked that question to a Syrian bishop two years ago. Pray for peace, he said. Pray that the violence will stop. Pray that the ­foreign fighters will go home. Pray for an end to the war. That bishop’s answer is still valid today: pray for peace.

Gas attack

Although the United Nations ­Security Council voted unanimously for a 30-day ceasefire last week in Syria, ­government forces continued their week-long offensive against the rebel-held suburb of Ghouta.

Aid agencies have since reported that more than a dozen civilians were ­hospitalised for symptoms suspected to be associated with a chlorine gas attack.

Pope Francis made an appeal last ­Sunday February 25, after praying the Angelus with people gathered in St Peter Square, calling for a halt to the intensified fighting in eastern Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus.

“This month of February has been one of the most violent in seven years of conflict: hundreds, thousands of civilian victims—children, women, the elderly. Hospitals have been hit and people can’t get anything to eat,” he said. “All of this is inhumane. Evil ­cannot be fought with evil. And war is an evil.”

At home agencies from across the country also emphasised the need for people to engage with the Syrian conflict in the way Pope Francis is asking.

Danny Sweeney, social justice coordinator for Justice and Peace Scotland, said: “The Church’s stance is one of nonviolence and so we must lobby for the UK government to work through the United Nations to bring about a ceasefire.”

He added: “A call by the Bishops of Scotland for a second collection, along with prayer and fasting for peace in Syria, would be welcomed by many, and hopefully would present an opportunity for churches and individuals to engage with Syrians of all faiths living in their neighbourhoods.

“Parishes able to offer language classes to give parishioners the skills to support recently arrived communities would be a wonderful way to promote the welcome and integration for which Pope Francis is calling.”

Escalation

The head of the Catholic Church in Syria, Archbishop Samir Nassar, last week revealed that more than 90 per cent of Syrian trained doctors have now left the country and 80 per cent of Syria’s qualified medical practitioners have fled over the last seven years.

“In the face of this painful situation charitable activities have continued to stagnate or be unable to progress because of the lack of structures and competent trained social workers,” he said.

“This seventh year of war in Syria has seen the build up of attacks and violence, an escalation of people leaving the country and a social crisis, where inflation has made the Syrians who have remained a people dependent completely on handouts, ­donations or begging.

“The Church structures are slowly disintegrating. In 2017 there were only 10 marriages rather than 30 and just seven Baptisms rather than 40. This rapid backward trend leaves us breathless and everyday the situation is getting worse.”

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