10/08/2018, 18.51
SYRIA - VATICAN
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Card Zenari praying for Syria and young people, looking for a future of peace and hope

by Dario Salvi

In Pompeii for the Supplication, the cardinal renewed the call of prayer to "put an end" to conflicts. His thoughts go to children and young people among the most affected by the war. The country’s reconstruction must start with them. Three timid signs of hope come from Syria.

Rome (AsiaNews) – Card Mario Zenari, apostolic nuncio to Damascus, is presently in Italy where he led yesterday’s Supplication to Our Lady of Pompeii (Naples) the for the end of all wars.

"We must continue to pray for peace in Syria and throughout the Middle East,” he said. “Prayer is the most important weapon we have in order to try to put an end to" all the conflicts and divisions that affect the region.

"I am in Pompeii to send this strong signal,” he said. “We pray for peace. We call on the Virgin Mary to grant us such a grace. Not just for peace, but also for all the victims of calamities," the latest being the quake in Indonesia.

“Children and young people are the most affected by war. War has destroyed hope and future. They are the first victims,” he said speaking about young people, Christian and non-Christian, in the country where he serves, whilst the Synod of young people is underway in Rome as intended by Pope Francis.

However, young people are "the element from which we must hope and start again to rebuild the country, to give a future of peace and hope, to ensure new perspectives" of development and coexistence.

For this reason, young people "must be stimulated to contribute to the reconstruction process, which must start by ending the war and starting the peace process" across the land.

In Syria hope, however timid, re-emerged as September came to an end. First, last month saw the lowest number of casualties since the war began in March 2011.

According to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has a network of informants on the ground, the civilian death toll stood at 139, including 58 children.

This is the lowest count since the war started seven years ago, far from the record set in May 2015 when 6,657 civilians were killed, both adults and children.

The significant drop in civilian casualties is due to the progress of government forces who, with Russian support, have regained larger swathes of the country’s territory.

This comes as Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said that a major summit bringing together Turkey, Russia, Germany and France to discuss the future of Syria will take place in the coming weeks.

For its part, Syria is struggling to get back to some semblance of a normal life.

The war upended old habits and traditions, including the Damascus International Trade Fair, which resumed last year for the first time since 2012 but was, albeit, attacked.

Following the liberation of Ghouta and Yarmouk from the Islamic State group, the event was held again this year without a hitch drawing large crowds. The opening day, 6 September, was a time of celebration in an atmosphere of greater tranquility and trust.

Syria’s reconstruction is more than an economic or social process, for it involves religion as well in a country where minorities, including Christians, enjoyed equal treatment as Muslims in the past few decades.

One example is Maaloula, a village northeast of Damascus home to one of the oldest Christian communities in the country.

In 2013 and 2014, the area and its residents were the victims of terrorist attacks, occupation, abuse and violence by Jihadi groups.

The militiamen destroyed much of the village’s historical and cultural heritage, including tombs and altars.

This year, in mid-September, Christians were able to celebrate the Annual Holy Cross Festival again, adorning the tops of the surrounding mountains with the traditional brightly-lit crosses.

"After years of Jihadi violence and house burning, we were able to return to illuminate our mountaintops. Now we can go back to celebrating life."

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