As part of an information expedition organized by some Catholic media I was taken to the city of Homs and surrounding area. I was shaken to the deepest of my conscience by the tragedy affecting the civilians, particularly the Christians. These concentrate especially in the city centre, now also the hideout of armed bands that so far remain unidentified. By the martial law imposed by these bands, civil servants, including schoolteachers, are liable to be the objects of reprisals while on their way to work. Likewise, craftsmen, businessmen and professionals are the targets of terrorist actions aimed at paralyzing social life.
The results of this kind of oppression are terrible: innocent people have their throats slit or are kidnapped. So families lose fathers, sons or brothers. Widows and orphans are in dire need. Those who have not faced the nightmare of death are forced to stay at home and try to survive without working. The already meagre budgets of these families get even slimmer (most of these budgets are middle-to-low level). Poverty is starting to be felt and the winter promises to be a particularly rigid one. Diesel is in short supply and food and first aid are badly needed.
Going back to Qara, I noticed that the insurgents apply the same stratagems as in Homs and Qusayr: on the one hand, they continue to organize parade demos for the satellite channels (Al Jazeerah, Arabia, BBC, France 24, etc.); on the other, they impose a terror regime as soon as night falls. In Qara there is practically a curfew: if you are out from 6pm onwards your life is at risk. A week ago five vans containing a total of thirty armed men arrived at the village square. By using jackhammers they ripped open the pavement and, with apparent impunity, cut off the telephone cables and dragged them away to dispose of them in the desert. Two days ago militiamen broke into the local school and ransacked it.
As mother superior in the ancient monastery of St James the Mutilated in Qara, in the Melkite Greek Catholic diocese of Homs, Hama and Yabroud, having witnessed the immense suffering of these families, I launch an appeal to our friends and benefactors for an urgent project: to help the war-stricken Syrian families who can no longer support themselves.