In the „Black Book on the condition of Christians in the World”, coordinated by the French journalist Samuel Lieven, it is mentioned that 150 millions of Christians are persecuted nowadays in the world. „Center for the study of Global Christiany” estimates that over Christians are killed annually for their faith, meaning one at every five minutes. The wars of the last years and the recent development of the Islamic State in Irak and Syria are followed by strong persecutions against Christians.
Two Syrian high ranking clerics from Aleppo, the Orthodox metropolitan Paul Yazigi, the brother of the Patriarch of Antioch, John the X-th, and the Coptic metropolitan John Ibrahim, have been kidnapped since 2013 and nothing has been found out about them. A Lebanese Arab wondered: „In Irak and Syria Christians are persecuted, killed, the churches are bombed and burnt. All this is happening and the free world is heedless to their agony and pain. So I am asking: aren’t they human too? Don’t they deserve to be helped by the organizations for human rights and the states that support them? It seems that the world sides with the mighty, not with the righteous.”
What do we know about the Christians from Syria? What are we doing for them? In the following lines there are some sequences from the life of some Orthodox monasteries, related by a nun from Syria.
The Jihadis occupied a village with 200 families of Christians. I went to the Muslims and told them: „Patriarch John helps all the refugees, Muslims and Christians alike. Help us to liberate the people of the village”. These men talked with the Jihadis and the people were saved. They let them leave their houses just with the clothes they had on them.
The Muslims from Persia (Iran) are educated and there aren’t so many fanatics. But the Muslims from other countries, where women are not even allowed to drive are fanatics. They believe that whoever kills the non Muslims, will go straight to heaven. They threaten you: either you become Muslim or I kill you. They cut even the heads of the children who refuse to become Muslims. They kidnap girls and keep them for themselves or sell them in the market.
They declare that the war is jihad (n.n. – in Arabic the term means fight, resistence and refers at the religious duty of any Muslim to fight till the entire mankind would become Muslim or under the authority of the Muslim state). The husbands discuss this matter in the family, the man decides to go to war. He says: „Run, do whatever you want. I go to the holy war”. The governmental army knows from what villages are coming the Jihadis and attacks them. Then the families of the Jihadis are forced to leave their villages and ask for help from Christians. They have many children. They all come to the holly abbess to ask for help.
When they kidnapped the nuns of the monastery from Maloula, for ten days a mullah went to them and talked to them about Islam, trying to persuade them to become Muslim. He told them: „Maybe your parents forced you to become nuns. If you become Muslims and marry, you are free”. The nuns didn’t say anything. Because they couldn’t convince them, then they sent some women to persuade them. The women told them: „Bring the Bible and the Koran to compare them”. But the nuns didn’t say a word to them. They stayed ten days more with the women and afterwards they were kept in some houses for three months and a half. When they were kidnapped, the Jihadis took from the monastery the books, the icons and the money. When they took them to those houses, they gave them back their money, but they didn’t give them back the icons and books. How could the nuns pray without the prayer books? Every day, for three months and a half they said only the prayers they knew by heart. After they were liberated, the nuns went to Lebanon.
They burnt the church of the monastery from Maloula. At saint Tecla’s grave they took out the ground. The home for orphans and the cells of the nuns escaped. Now the government rebuilds the monastery and the Patriarch hopes that in three months the nuns could go back.
At Cherub Monastery the army came before arrived the Jihadis and defended the area, so the monastery was not occupied. But now there isn’t any more monk there, just the army.
We have electricity two hours per day. We have a power generator, but we don’t have any fuel. In February we didn’t have diesel fuel for the car. There are many thieves who steal, taking advantage of the entire situation – the people are poor, they have to steal in order to survive.
Who helps us with money? The holy mother of God. We cultivate flowers and send them to Lebanon and they are sold there. In this way we are able to aid the people who come and ask for our help. We couldn’t receive in the monastery all the families that came here. We preferred to pay rent for them in houses from the villages, otherwise they would have created big disorder within the monastery. We must keep our monastic ordinance. A man is sick with diabetis and he doesn’t have a fridge to keep the insulin for the injections there. We gave him the fridge we had. Nobody can afford buying a washing machine or a fridge now, cause they cost much more. The nuns are kind-hearted and they give to the poor all they have in the monastery.
A family from Aleppo that was rich before, now took shelter in our area. The woman came and asked for only two plates, two spoons and two knifes. But two of the nuns went to see how they live. They live in a very poor house : without floor or beds, there is nothing in it. The nuns came back and said what they saw and they were crying. We gathered a carpet, a bed and other things and took them to that family.
Every Sunday the nuns go by car and pick up all those who want to come to the Holy Liturgy, then drop them back home. We take care that all of them find work.
We don’t get out of the monastery. After sunset we stay with a big fear. We don’t send nuns in the city by car. Every night, the nuns hold a vigil for those who fight in the war. They send us letters: „Do pray for us, please! Light a candle. They came against us”. Once we gave small icons with The Holy Mother of God, Trihierusa. A soldier put it on his chest, he was shot there, but he didn’t die.
We feel sorry to leave the monasteries. We see young people who put all their hopes in us: „Here is a monastery, they pray for us”, they say. It means an aid, a hope for them. We cannot leave. Many put their hopes in our prayers. The Muslims who go in the army come and ask for our blessing: „Pray for us! We are not Christians, we are Muslims, but do pray for us, please!”. When they get a two days leave from the front, they don’t go straight home, they come to us. They make the sign of the cross, even the Muslims, then go to their homes and back to the war. In the memorial prayers there are so many names of soldiers! They ask us to mention them in our prayers daily. Mothers come, cry and ask us to pray for their sons.
A young soldier told us: „I can’t kill anybody – he could be my neigbour”. He doesn’t use his gun. He goes to war because it’s compulsory. God has been protecting him for three years. He neither killed anyone, nor was killed.