Cardinal Zenari: Help Syria, a humanitarian disaster the world has now forgotten

Papal Ambassador to Damascus in Rome to meet with Pope and attend ROACCO General Assembly: “The situation has deteriorated between poverty and division, but Syria has disappeared from the radar of the international media. The war in Ukraine has done more damage to our crisis ”.

He has been papal ambassador to Damascus for 13 years, but Cardinal Mario Zinari still cannot get used to the scenario of division and poverty that has disfigured Syria. “After twelve years of war, the situation is not so good, in a way it has actually worsened. Three years ago, Syria was forgotten: the Corona pandemic, the crisis in Lebanon, and now Ukraine … It has disappeared from the cardinal Zenari was in Rome to attend the General Assembly of the Ruaco Commission for the Relief of the Eastern Churches and last Saturday morning, June 18, he met the Pope, who – as he put it. Vatican media – “found him in good condition “:” I brought the greetings of the believers and the bishops, but also the pain and suffering of the people. “

Syria remains one of the most serious humanitarian crises in the world. Suffice it to say that in addition to the countless deaths caused by this conflict, some 14 million people, up from 23 million in the past, are outside their homes, outside their villages and outside their cities. There are about 7 million displaced people who sometimes live under trees or in tents in bad weather. This year was a cold winter, especially in the northwest, and many tents collapsed under the weight of the snow. In addition, there are millions of refugees in neighboring countries. So it is a great humanitarian disaster.

In response to the question whether there are signs of hope or improvement, Cardinal Zenari said no, there is currently no light at the end of the tunnel. We saw no reconstruction or economic progress. With the war in Ukraine, the issue of lifting sanctions has become more problematic. First are the sanctions of the European Union and America, which are more severe and punish those who want to go to Syria to rebuild and restart the economy. From this point of view, the war in Ukraine has certainly worsened the situation in Syria. So many people lost hope. Especially young people who are trying in every way to migrate and ask us to help them leave. This also presents particular suffering for local churches that have seen more than half of Christians, and in some cases as many as two-thirds, leave. It is also a detriment to Syrian society itself, because Christians, as I have always said, with their open and cosmopolitan spirit and their commitment to education and health, truly support the whole country. And after two thousand years of history, they are now on their way to extinction. Their absence or forced departure is a scourge for everyone.

Answering the question whether the situation has worsened after the explosion of the poverty bomb in the country, added the papal ambassador to Syria, he said that the situation has worsened more and more, as evidenced by some scenes in Damascus or other cities where you. can see queues of people in front of bakeries selling at state-controlled prices. We did not see these classes even during the war. This means that people have no money to buy food and go to these bakeries where they buy bread for a hundred Syrian pounds instead of a thousand … This is really sad. Then there is no gasoline and there is a great effort to find it, given that Syria has several oil wells, which covered a large part of the national needs. Also, no oil: people had no fuel to turn on the heaters during the winter, which, as I said, was harsh. So let’s think about all those who have suffered from the cold, especially the elderly and children. There is also a shortage of basic goods that we take for granted, such as electricity. In most parts of Syria there are only two hours a day. There is no gas to cook … Just think that during Lent there were three Italian entities that helped me and it occurred to me that in Syria there are popular kitchens that distribute hot meals to families. I was very happy, I told them that we have collected 10,000 to 20,000 euros, to increase the number of people as well as the service and do it four times a week instead of three. They replied: We really had to reduce from three to two. And why? Because there is no gas for cooking. So you can understand that we are working in a minefield. There is money, as in this case, but there are no essential goods. So I say there is no way out.

Cardinal Zenari went on to answer a question about the appeals of Pope Francis, who denounced the ongoing tragedy in Ukraine and demanded that other world wars, including the war in Syria, not be forgotten, saying yes, Syria is forgotten. It disappeared from the radar of global media. Not just because of the conflict in Ukraine, but earlier, as it was the Corona pandemic and the financial crisis for banks in Lebanon, which was also a severe blow to Syria because everyone, even the churches receiving humanitarian aid, deposited money in Lebanese. bankat. For years it has been difficult to transfer money and especially receive it. In addition, aid from Christian humanitarian agencies has also waned: they continue to have an interest in the Middle East, but now the urgency is clearly Ukraine. Also, only one of the four humanitarian corridors that have been established for two or three years remains: they depend on Security Council resolutions that are subject to veto power. The UN mandate for this corridor expires on July 10 and I hope and pray it does not close. Because that would be a disaster! But there is a risk of closing it. As I always say, every crisis leads to another. Everything really hurts and people feel abandoned.

Answering a question whether he saw any discrepancy in the help and interest of the international community, the papal ambassador to Syria added, he said yes, there is some difference. Western countries that can help have a crisis within them, so their aid to Ukraine is likely to be greater. As well as political interest. As for the Middle East, it is in a region of unrest that has been going on for years … and Syria, in particular, is already fragmented. Five armies from five powerful nations at odds with each other still operate within them. So even from a political point of view, everything is just a mess. Of the five armies I spoke of, one has entered uninvited: the Turkish army. He occupied a strip in northern Syria and was particularly concentrated in an area in the northwestern province of Idlib. Part of the infrastructure, such as telephone operators, is provided by Turkey and the Turkish currency has been used for some time. Then there is the northeast, which is under the influence and administration of the Kurds, who have oil wells. There is also a part of the American army. As for Israel, it regularly carries out attacks on Hezbollah or Iranian military targets. And last week they bombed the runway of Damascus airport for the first time. We also do not forget that some plots of land have been occupied by criminal gangs or the remnants of ISIS. In short, Syria has lost its unity. It hurts a lot to see this political map, I do not know where to start to fix it.

Cardinal Mario Zinari, the pope’s ambassador to Syria, ended his speech to the Vatican News, answering a question whether in the face of this situation he described, he had one day considered resigning from his post or requesting his transfer. said on Saturday morning, I was talking about this issue with the Holy Father, who encouraged me and often reminded me that he had made a “gift” to Syria six years ago with a cardinal ambassador Papal. The situation is certainly difficult, and there are political, diplomatic and humanitarian problems, but I feel responsible. I should have become an honorary ambassador of the pope a year ago, but because of the Pope’s gift I am moving forward, as much as God wills and to give me health.

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