[This is the Christmas letter from the Syrian Maronite Archbishop of Damascus. It is translated from the French by Sister Margaret Kerry, FSP. – Ed]
This Christmas Syria looks more like a manger: an open door-less stable, cold, bereft, so poor, and completely destroyed by violence.
The Christ Child isn’t alone in Syria. Millions of children who have lost their homes live without shelter and in tents that are as poor as the Manger in Bethlehem.
Jesus isn’t alone in his misery. Syrian childhood is abandoned and damaged by the scenes of violence. The children wish to be in Jesus’ place. He always had his parents with him. That feeling of bitterness is evident in their eyes, their tears and their silence.
Several Syrian children are jealous of the Christ Child because he found a modest place to be born and sheltered while some of them were born under bombs or on the road to exodus.
The Blessed Mother isn’t alone in her difficulties anymore: miserable less fortunate mothers live in extreme poverty and assume the family responsibilities by themselves, without their husbands who’ve been killed or have disappeared. The poverty of the Manger brings them some solace.
The reassuring presence of Saint Joseph within the Holy Family is a source of jealousy for those families that have been stripped of a father. Such lack feeds fear, anguish and anxiety.
Our unemployed people are jealous of Saint Joseph who could keep the Holy Family from need, hunger and danger when they fled to Egypt.
The shepherds and their herds who were near the Manger speak to the Syrian farmers who have lost their livestock in this war.
The nomad life in this Biblical Land, going back to Abraham and even well before him, is brutally disappearing along with its old traditions of hospitality and traditional culture.
The dogs in Christmas manger scenes have compassion for the domestic dogs in Syria, victims of deathly violence. Dogs so thin that they look like skeletons roaming the ruins as they feed on animal corpses due to the lack of food scraps in the city.
The infernal noise of war suffocates the angels’ Gloria. That Christmas symphony for peace gives its place to hatred, cruel atrocities and global indifference.
May the three Wise Men bring the gifts of which Syria is in great need: Peace, Forgiveness and Compassion.
On this Christmas Jesus smiles on the naked, abandoned Syrian child and invites him to share his manger.
Maronite Archbishop of Damas
(Christmas meditation of 2013, revised in Christmas 2016).