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Nun Condemns Violence in Syria Assad’s Regime

A man carries the lifeless body of a boy following an air strike by Syrian forces in Azaz, 29 miles north of Aleppo, Syria, 15 Aug. Estimates of the number of people killed range as high as 28,000 since the uprising against President Bashar Assad began in March 2011. More than a million people have been forced to leave their homes because of the violence. (Photo: CNS/Goran Tomasevic, Reuters)  

In late July, the U.N. said an estimated 2.5 million Syrians have been injured, displaced or face problems securing food or basic necessities since the uprising — now deemed a civil war by the Red Cross — began in March 2011. Activists estimate 20,000-28,000 people have died in the conflict.

Mother Agnes Mariam said a prelate in Aleppo told her that although the city “did not really enter in the revolution demonstrations, as the majority of the city's population wanted to stay neutral,” the city had been “invaded by thousands of rebels, most of whom are not Syrian,” and that they were “forcing people to either collaborate with them or killing them.”

“My appeal is for the civilian population,” Mother Agnes Mariam said. “This is not the way to bring freedom or democracy to a country which has been under a yoke of totalitarianism for 50 years.”

She said that, in Homs, she had witnessed “terrible things.”

“I have seen hundreds of corpses of civilians who were shot, cut in pieces — just because they were civilians going to their work,” she told Catholic News Service.

Likening Homs to Stalingrad, Russia, or Dresden, Germany, after World War II, she said ancient Catholic, Orthodox and Presbyterian churches had been desecrated and the conflict had caused 130,000 Christians to flee the area.

“The only solution is for a complete cease-fire and dialogue from within Syria and for all factions to enter into a movement of reconciliation and of dialogue,” she suggested. “We want first of all to stop violence.”

She also urged support for an alternative solution to the violence.

“Mussalaha, which in Arabic means reconciliation, is a community-based nonviolent initiative which has emerged from within civil society. Religious, family and ethnic leaders have been meeting to promote peace and reconciliation within Syrian society. It is an alternative to the violence of the insurrection or international military intervention,” she said.

The church-backed initiative emerged in June in Homs following the attendance of representatives of various religions at a meeting that resulted in a number of joint declarations on building peace and mutual respect in Syria.

Born in Lebanon of a Lebanese mother and a Palestinian father, Mother Agnes Mariam lived through the Lebanese civil war of 1975-1990. She joined the Carmelites in 1971, and in 1994 she established a new monastic foundation in the sixth-century monastery of St. James the Mutilated in Qara.

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Tags: Syria Middle East Christians Middle East Arab Spring Carmelite Sisters