Cardinal Christoph Schönborn has recently returned from a short trip to Syria. A trip which had at its heart the demonstration of moral and spiritual support for Christians in the region.
Muslims, together with Christians
In an interview with Vatican News, Cardinal Schönborn describes his trip as one in which he was unfortunately not able to do all that he truly would have liked to. He recounts one of the most moving scenes he witnessed, where muslim women and children gathered in prayer in the Christian monasteries and sanctuaries.
But the most moving aspect, continues the Cardinal, was witnessing “the dramatic situation of the young generation”. Cardinal Schönborn recalls hearing many young people tell him about their desire to leave the country.. about their fears that ‘there is no future’ for them there.
Silence does not make peace
This, he says, is the consequence of ten years of a terrible war. It is the consequence of a terrible economic situation. It is the consequence of a lack of peace.
It is not enough for the weapons to be silent, says Cardinal Schönborn, because whilst there is neither reconciliation nor unity in the country there is no peace.
The war in Syria broke out 10 years ago, in March 2011, after the Syrian government violently retaliated to pro-democracy protests. Foreign powers began to take sides, sending money, weaponry and fighters, and as the chaos worsened, groups such as the so-called Islamic State began getting involved, and the international community saw them as a major threat. Since then almost 400,000 people have been killed and 200,000 more are missing, presumed dead.
Calling on the international community
There is a great need from the international community, says the Cardinal. “Especially from the great powers…(America, Russia, iran and turkey)…to come together to help this country find peace”. Then, he said, and only then, we can make a plan for reconstruction of the country.
This tragedy has lead to the departure of so many of the country’s natives because they simply see no futute. “And that is really heartbreaking… because they love their country”.
More than half of Syria’s pre-war population of 22 million have fled their homes. Some 6.7 million are internally displaced, many of them living in camps, while another 5.6 million are registered as refugees abroad.
Cardinal Schönborn concludes by stressing that, “I myself am child of a refugee family”. ”My mother used to say ‘nobody leaves their country voluntarily'”. In fact, says Cardinal Schönborn, “It’s always a drama if you have to leave your country”.