Priests in Syria stay with people despite risks of war

Priests in Syria are choosing to stay with their people despite the death of a monk who was killed by Islamist rebels involved in the country’s civil war.

Father Francois Mourad died at the Franciscan monastery of Saint Anthony of Padua, near the Turkish border, while trying to defend nuns and local Christians who had sought refuge there.

“I try to live this war with the people, not abandon them,”
said a priest from Aleppo in an interview with Catholic News Agency during a visit to Italy.

Since the Syrian conflict began more than two years ago, it has claimed the lives of more than 93,000 people.
At least 4.25 million Syrians have been internally displaced, and 1.5 million have become refugees in nearby countries.

The priest, who spoke on condition of anonymity for safety reasons, said he has evangelised differently since the war began.

“First I tried to take Christ to people through music and I was very involved with it in Church,” he said. “But now I need to be poor with the people and suffer with them.”

“Many Muslims have asked me why I do this, because they are surprised,” the priest said. “But this interreligious dialogue between Muslims and Christians is now stronger.”

About eight months ago, he said, a group of young priests and local Muslims opened two schools for 425 internally displaced Muslim children.

“We give them food to eat every day, we play with the children and just live alongside both Christians and Muslims.”

Before the war, the priest said, “we had a beautiful life” — but now  “we live a big evil because we see our youth going to the army and dying, and churches in danger.”

While the Assad regime had “made mistakes”, he added, Syrians had “a marvelous peace between Muslims and Christians” prior to the war.

Father Mourad, a former Franciscan, had founded a new monastic foundation and was in the process of rebuilding the ancient monastery of St Simeon Stylites, despite the problems of the war.


Catholic News Agency



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