Tag Archives: syria

The lost… and that which survives

An April 13th article by Fr. Benedict Kiely, Catholic Herald caught my attention this week. Entitled “The Cross ISIS couldn’t destroy”, the piece transported me back to so many parts of Syria that we traveled in during the 2011 “Arab Spring”.  He writes in

Photo: Fr. Benedict Kiely

the article:

As we entered the Church of St Addai, the full hatred for the “followers of the Cross” was revealed. The Islamists had attempted to burn the church. A smashed statue of Our Lady was on the ground. The altar had bullet holes in it. Everywhere – in that church and the others we visited – the Cross was defaced, destroyed or in some way vandalised.

Even if a wooden door had a Cross on it, at least one arm would be broken. [..] All across the Nineveh Plains, the home of Christians for almost 2,000 years, the same thing has happened: Islamists cannot bear the imagery of the Cross.

Suddenly, Steve Rasche, an American who works for the Archdiocese of Erbil and was coordinating our visit, knelt in the rubble and picked up a Cross. Brushing off the rubble and dirt, he saw it was unbroken – the corpus had been removed, but the Cross was intact. Then Rasche, whom I later christened “the Crossfinder”, told us the story of the miraculous Cross of Baqofah – which ended up on display during the weeks of Lent in, of all places, Westminster Cathedral.

During out time in Syria, we encountered many Christian and Muslim

Evening over Saidnaya from the Monastery

areas that no longer fared as well as that crucifix. In the city of Saidnaya, a mere 17 km north of Damascus, we enjoyed the hospitality of the the Orthodox sisters at Our Lady of Saidnaya Monastery, one of the oldest monasteries in the world. We participated in Lenten Friday evening services, roomed overnight in the rooftop quarters for guests and gazed out at night in a city where Christianity and Islam coexisted peacefully.

 

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On the Monastery rooftop.

The monastery has been badly damaged during the six year Syrian conflict, and, with the fall of a stable government, Christians and Muslims no longer share this magnificent resource, where an icon of Mary, attributed to St. Luke, was reverenced daily by both Christian and Muslim pilgrims. Is all lost? Hard to know, but in prayer, I find that the echoes of that time still move my heart and soul to consider how we must, more than ever, treasure our traditions, our heritage… our faith.

More than meets the eye

Twitter posts these days are propelled by more than just 140 characters. The majority of tweets contain visual images:  photos, graphics and even movies. Why? Twitter itself recommends visual information to capture more “impressions”… people catching a tweet and spending more than a split second on it.

Really, it makes sense… particularly if the visual image captures the essence of the brief tweet. One of our recent tweets that has garnered a number of impressions is this one.

Deir Mar Musa al-Habashi Tweet

Deir Mar Musa al-Habashi – Syria

After requoting a tweet from the Diocese of Syracuse @SyrDiocese: Let us keep our eyes focused on Christ! My thought turned right away to St. John of the Cross, man and mystic truly focused on Christ… particularly Christ on the Cross. I added this quote from John of the Cross to the original tweet: “One act done in charity is more precious in God’s sight than all the visions and communications [with God] possible.

I was tuning into @SyrDiocese reminding us to keep our eyes focused just as John of the Cross had prompted us to consider what is seen in God’s sight. We all need those reminders. Of course, this eventually led me later in the week, after the Daily Office to consider what I have seen, AND how it has changed my life.

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Frenco Pecchio – Milano, Itally

And so the post above. Once again, the depth of John of the Cross’ wisdom propels the conversation, but the image is amazing:  a 4th or 5th century fresco in an ancient monastery 80 km north of Damascus, Syria; a place I knew well, because I had prayed my Morning Office there in the Spring of 2011 at the beginning of the “Arab Spring” in Syria! The Monastery of Saint Moses the Abyssinian is perched high upon a cliff in the desert near Lebanon. There I encountered God in a profound way that truly penetrated my soul, as St. John writes.

A short tweet… an image. Far more than meets the eye!

The Face of War

In the Aleppo souq, inside the ancient old walls of the city, four children enter an apartment with their mother.

In the Aleppo souq, inside the ancient old walls of the city, four children enter an apartment with their mother.

Our time in Syria, spring of 2011 was, without a second thought, an unequaled exploration of country, culture, religions and people. The Syrian people… welcoming, ever-inquisitive, generous… revealed to us the true face of this nation.  Daily as I reflect back, I see those faces knowing that they are the face of this war; a war dubbed a civil war… a war that illustrates the inhumanity of man and the cold, cruel heart of a regime desperate to maintain power.

Today, on the eve of Pope Francis’ worldwide appeal for a day dedicated to peace in Syria, I ask all to join us:

Next Saturday [September 7, 2013] we will live together a special day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, in the Middle East, and in the whole world. Also for peace in our hearts, because peace begins in the heart! I renew the invitation to the whole Church to live this day intensely and, right now, I express my gratitude to the other Christian brothers, to the brothers of other religions and to men and women of good will who wish to join us, in the places and ways proper to them, for this moment. I exhort in particular the Roman faithful and pilgrims to participate in the Vigil of Prayer here, in St. Peter’s Square, at 7:00 pm to invoke from the Lord the great gift of peace. May the cry for peace be raised strongly throughout the earth!

(Pope Francis, in Rome at the conclusion of his General Audience 4 Wed 2013.)

For more information on the 7 SEP 2013 Day of Prayer & Fasting for Peace , follow this link:  On the Plea for Peace | ZENIT – The World Seen From Rome http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/on-the-plea-for-peace

Also, considering acting in accord with Pax Christi:  Advocate and act to stop military intervention in Syria! http://conta.cc/1dJYeLJ or on Twitter via #constantcontact.

Finally, from Bishop Cunningham, a pdf containing additional information:  Day of Fasting and Prayer

(Photo Credit:  My wife, Linda, snapped this photo in the alley way as we walked backed to our small hotel in the Aleppo Souq. The children paused for just a moment when we greeted them.  As a woman, Linda’s ability to capture an image like this was possible. The Arab women often turned away from my camera.)