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Christians in the Muslim World

Build to stay: In Syria an Observatory is born to curb Christian emigration

Nahla Baghado

Bâtir pour Rester


(Build to stay) is a movement that brings together Christians in Aleppo (Syria) who believe in God and in the country and want to stay in the land of their birth, a land that has spiritually, culturally and materially nourished them and their ancestors, generation after generation.


Reasons for the Movement



For some years now, Syria, especially Aleppo, has seen a great number of its Christians leave for the West. The Church has become aware of the inherent danger such a trend represents on a human, social, ecclesial and national levels. Any large-scale Christian exodus would deliver a fatal blow to a 2,000-year-old community in the land where Christianity itself was born and would compromise the Church's mission as a presence and as a witness in a Muslin environment, endangering its important communities which Providence has hitherto preserved.


Pastoral letters, speeches and appeals to the faithfulfrom whatever sourcehave failed to stop people from leaving. The lack of a better future and the social, material and professional problems young people face in their own country are a cause of concern to them, so much so that it is hard to reflect dispassionately about the situation and find reasons why not to leave. Indeed, few young people see any future for them at home and have few reasons that might motivate them to stay.


Actions for a Solution



In light of the situation Metropolitan J. C. Jeanbart, archbishop of Aleppo, has come to realise that as a pastor some things must change if the problem is to find a solution, and that speeches are ineffective and useless if they are not backed in a concrete and systematic fashion. Actions must be analysed in a concerted way with those directly concerned; they must be involved in the process from the beginning, take part in the planning and execution phases so that they can be offered the means to start their own family, find a job and live with dignity in their own country.


For this to happen, a certain synergy is needed, one that allows each and everyone within the community to participate and contribute. This is why we have appealed to a certain number of people who believe in the importance of their presence in Syria and who accept to act accordingly. A great number of them, young and old, have responded positively to the appeal. Twelve of them have been invited to work on organising a meeting that would launch the Bâtir pour Rester (Build to Stay) movement.


Structure and Organisation



The movement will be simple and flexible, focused on a few goals. Since its raison d'être is to tackle a precise problem, emigration, finding a solution to latter will determine its features and related action plans. The tasks of its general council, from which its executive committee is drawn, is to survey and reflect, organise and put together the resources members can bring to the movement itself and improve its many activities. It will be more of an "observatory" than a board of directors; an outfit that provides members with information and documentation, which organises contacts and co-ordinates actions.


Any adult who is serious about helping Christians stay in Syria can join. The variety of professional and academic backgrounds as well as the social and personal status of the movement's members reflect the actual circumstances of those who will benefit from its actions; and this will make the latter more effective because they will reflect people's real needs. Participation in this campaign is open to anyone and more the merrier as a greater active membership means more people directly involved and greater progress for the overall project.


Building means brick and mortar like houses and schools as well as services, but it also means a society that gives more space to its younger, more vigorous, positive-oriented members; that is people who care for good work, whose love for the Church and commitment to its apostolic mission are unquestioned, who possess a high patriotic spirit as well as a strong sense of social responsibility, solidarity and openness to others and whose generosity can only be the foundation of any society at peace and contented with itself.


In order to reach this goal, Bâtir pour Rester has to develop better housing, promote education, support better medical care, expand youth centres, organise discussions and conferences, lead awareness campaigns and publish relevant material on a regular basis.


In taking on these activities, the movement hopes to change matters and give our youth a reason to live in their country of birth and to move forward with courage into a future full of promises in a rich land that is rapidly developing.