Archbishop of Aleppo asks, "When will the West intervene?"
"What is the West waiting for before it intervenes?"
That is the desperate cry for help from a Syrian bishop whose people have been worn down by the insecurity they face every day from ongoing strife.
Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart, the Greek Melkite Archbishop of Aleppo, said in an emailed message to supporters Thursday that church buildings once again were hit by bombs, this time launched by "rebels." The bomb pierced a roof but, he said, no one was inside at the time.
Nevertheless, the four-year-old Syrian civil war and the advances of Islamic jihadist groups such as the Islamic State is "depressing" people, he said, "adding more each day to their anxiety and sadness."
"Because of this ugly and barbarous war they have lost so many loved ones, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and cherished children," he wrote.
"Allow me to be distressed by the homes that are destroyed, churches rendered unusable, shuttered businesses and destroyed shops, an ancient city crushed by the destruction of a priceless architectural patrimony," the archbishop wrote, in a litany of tragedies. "Allow me to be bitter when comforting countless parents mortified by the deprivation that robs their children of the basic necessities needed to promote dignity and the ability to grow up healthy. Allow me to be concerned about the survival of a growing number of elderly, to focus on getting them the minimum amount of aid needed for their serenity, which is already sorely tested by suffering and constant danger.
"Allow me to raise my voice to call on all men and women of goodwill to hear our plea," he continued. "ISIS, which has already killed thousands in the region, is terrifying the faithful of Aleppo. After Maloula, Mosul, Idlib and Palmyra—what is the West waiting for before it intervenes? What are the great nations waiting for before they put a halt to these monstrosities?"
He went on:
Allow me to cry out in anger and to revolt against a global system inclined toward barbarism, hungry for power and drunk with insatiable corruption. Let me cry with my people, violated and murdered. Hundreds of thousands of victims, sacrificed for the promise of a better society that I don’t know, and the promise and hope of an Arab spring they will never see!
May all those who believe in the Good and Merciful God, and all those with compassion for the innocent, raise their voice with us and call on civilized countries to take action to bring about Peace—before it is too late and more innocent victims add to this gruesome spectacle.
A week earlier, the archbishop had written to supporters that he had just returned to Aleppo after an awareness-raising tour in the United States to find a "badly-damaged cathedral."
"These buildings built by my predecessors 200 years ago, and the improvement which we had undertaken in recent years, are now very damaged, run down and in desolate disrepair," he wrote. "I cannot tell you all my grief and my pain at the sight of this disaster. Thank God all my priests were unharmed, safe and sound from this latest attack on our archdiocese perpetrated by rebels who had showered a rain of shells on the Christian area of the city where several churches congregate."
He said at the time that he was trying to secure archives, icons, manuscripts "and all that was valuable, irreplaceable and important."
He ended with a hopeful note, however, something that is missing in his new missive:
"We are currently paying dearly for our presence in our beloved country, but we also know that the future of our younger generations will be much better once peace is established and the freedom gained," he wrote. "We do not know exactly when this much desired peace will come, but we ask the Lord to grant us as soon as possible and we firmly believe that He will give it to us because great is his love and mercy ineffable. Pray with us, I beg you; your prayers will be of great help."