By Oliver Maksan, ACN International
Adapted by AB Griffin, ACN Canada
The conflict in Syria can only be solved politically, not by military means: that is the firm conviction of the Syrian Jesuit Ziad Hilal. Speaking to the international Catholic pastoral charity “Aid to the Church in Need” he said on Friday: “The use of weapons will not stop the bloodshed in Syria.
In this I disagree with America and France. Rather the international community must work towards a peaceful solution and convene an international peace conference. In Syria itself the government and opposition must start a dialogue. The arms deliveries must also be stopped, as must the infiltration of Syria by jihadists from all over world.”
In Homs, Father Ziad heads a social centre which provides medical, psychological and other charitable services. It is located in an area controlled by government troops. About 6000 families from Homs and the surrounding area are taken care of there. He is supported in this by about 100 volunteers.
A third winter of war
Father Ziad claimed that the situation in the embattled city of Homs was difficult. “Time and again there are fights between the “Free Syrian Army” and government troops. Recently a bomb fell very close by. Fortunately nothing happened to our secretary, but her home was destroyed.”
Of the 120,000 Christians who used to live here, 6,000 had left the city and fled to other areas in Syria or abroad. The historical city centre was in the hands of the rebels,and it had been totally abandoned for practical purposes, Father Ziad explained. His superior had given him permission to leave the city if he so wished. But he had rejected the idea. “If we go, who will then serve the people?”
Father Ziad is looking forward to the third winter of the war with some trepidation. “We are afraid of the winter. We need everything to get our people through the winter: heating oil, clothing and blankets. I appeal to our fellow Christians in Europe not to forget us.”
Father Ziad is very worried about the future of Christians in Syria. “I’m very much afraid that the exodus will continue. The Christians are an integral part of this country, its culture and history. But if there is not a major change in the situation, it will soon look here like in Iran or Turkey. The countries also had flourishing Christian communities of which hardly anything is left now. May God spare Syrian Christians the same fate.”