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Christians in Syria Struggle to Survive

Men walk on a road amid destroyed buildings in Aleppo’s main Saadallah al-Jabari Square, where rebels and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have been fighting in this photo released 3 Oct. by Syria’s national news agency SANA. Chaldean Bishop Ant oine Audo of Aleppo tells British legislators that the city he “loves so much” has been left in ruins by fighting, and Christians are struggling to survive. (Photo: CNS/SANA handout via Reuters)  

22 Oct 2012 – By Catholic News Service

LONDON (CNS) — The Chaldean Catholic bishop of Aleppo said Syria’s second-largest city, which he “loves so much,” has been left in ruins by months of fighting, and Christians there are struggling to survive.

“People have fled their homes,” said Chaldean Bishop Antoine Audo.

Speaking at a reception in Parliament Oct. 18, the bishop said that, even with the violence of “bombing and snipers,” Aleppo’s bishops have decided to stay with their people to try to prevent the loss of a Christian presence in the area.

“We don’t want to leave them alone. If I go out of the city for a time, the people will feel alone,” he said.

“We did not go to Lebanon to meet the pope to tell him that we are in a dangerous situation,” he said, referring to Pope Benedict XVI’s Sept. 14-16 visit to Lebanon. “Instead, we wrote the pope a letter to ask for his support.”

Bishop Audo was willing to visit Britain briefly, however, to raise the awareness of the plight of Syrian Christians in the West and to appeal for material assistance to help improve their situation.

“In some areas ... they have fled their homes because of the threat of bombs, they have lost their livelihoods; schools, hospitals and other public services do not function. There is chaos,” he said.

“Eighty percent of people have no job and have no option but to stay at home,” the bishop said. “Poverty is getting very serious, especially with rising prices and no salaries. The face of the city has changed. There is no security, everything is dirty, there are difficulties in basic travel, no taxis, no buses.”

He said that although many Syrian people had suffered as a result of the violence that has convulsed the region Christians were confronted by problems that were “uniquely serious.”

“In the city of Homs, home to what was the country’s second-largest Christian community, all but a few of the faithful were forced to leave after a wave of persecution — all the churches desecrated,” Bishop Audo said.

“The desire to emigrate is always on people’s minds, especially Christians,” he said. “The majority of wealthy people have already left Aleppo for Lebanon to seek schools for their children.

“Those who remain in Aleppo are only the poor families. We are fearful that Christianity will decline and will lose (its) influence as it has done over the past decade in neighboring Iraq,” he said.

“If Christians in my country were reduced to a token few, it would be disastrous because, until now, ours has been one of the last remaining strong Christian centers in the whole of the Middle East.

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Tags: Syria Middle East Christians Syrian Civil War Arab Spring Aleppo