SYRIA, PASTORS ARE WITH THEIR FLOCK An interview with the Vicar Patriarch of the Syrian Catholic Church in Damascus, Youhanna Jihad Battah

  • Italiano

From a country battered by internal wars, which has also the ISIS “cancer”, music goes up as peace force. Yesterday, in the splendid setting of the St. Ignatius of Loyola church, in Rome, the association “Amici di Dolores Sopegna” ‘Friends of Dolores Sopegna’, founded by a group of volunteers in 2011, has organized “Rome sings Damascus”, a charitable concert with artists of international fame. Collected funds will be used to provide a medical facility for first aid in Damascus. Among those present there was also don Aldo Buonaiuto, director of In Terris. There was also a guest of honor, the Vicar Patriarch of the Syrian Catholic Church of Antioch, the archdiocese of the Syrians in Damascus, Monsignor Youhanna Jihad Battah. We interviewed him. The truth he told us about is a slap in the face of all those who declare that Syria needs a “transition” government.

Your Excellency, what is the condition of the Christians in Syria? “There is a lot of fear, people are trying to flee. The situation is not homogeneous, it depends on the areas and on the countries. In Damascus the situation is fine, whereas Aleppo is a hot area. In Iraq, Christians are persecuted. They are fleeing from the country. In Syria, most of them have decided to stay. Assad is a good President, a physician, ophthalmologist, a true layman who is respectful of all religions. He is an alawite who belongs to the modernist branch of Islam. Sunni fanatics dislike him”.

Why is this war happening? Is it really an internal struggle, a civil one? “This war was brought from the outside, United States and Israel financed the rebels. There are religious fanatics in ISIS, but also mercenaries financed by other countries, from which they receive money and weapons. In Mosul, they have taken possess of resources, petroleum, armaments”.

What do Syrians think about Russia’s attacks? “Putin is really against terrorism. He is trying to eradicate ISIS. Others seem to be playing games: they have business relations with them, buy oil, help them directly and indirectly”. These last days, United States have declared that Lebanon has gone back to being a high risk area.

What is your perception? “There is calm in Lebanon; it is a model of peaceful coexistence between different cultures and religions. We live in peace”.

What do the faithful ask from the pastors in these countries plagued by violence? “To help them preserve faith and, especially, hope. Whoever spreads terror and death can destroy houses and churches, but not faith in the hearts of the believers. The local Church helps those who have lost everything and shelters refugees. I host several families too. We, pastors, are in the open field together with the sheep”.

How shall this situation be solved? What appeal would you like to launch to the international community? “We really must fight ISIS, stop it. First of all, by not sending them arms and money. Violence creates violence. Besides, we need true collaboration and dialog between those who truly mean to stop it”.

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