The Apostolic Nuncio to Syria, Cardinal Mario Zenari, calls on the international community to make a sign of good faith regarding economic sanctions, and deplores the decline in hope of the Syrian people as the world forgets the people who have long suffered.
By Vatican News reporter
Life on the streets of Damascus is like that of any other major capital in the Middle East: the streets fill up as people walk to and from work, and the shops are full of food items. .
Still, take a closer look and the glass front shatters to reveal the harsh reality. After years of civil war, commodity prices are sky-high in relation to wages, the middle class has collapsed, and 90 percent of the Syrian population – reduced by 6.8 million due to mass emigration – lives under the threshold of poverty.
A government employee earns around 75,000 Syrian pounds (SYP), or 60 US dollars, while a single kilogram of infant formula costs just under 12,000 SYP ($ 10) and a full tank of gasoline consumes 20 000 SYP ($ 16).
Economic bomb kills hope for Syria
This harsh economic reality has left little hope for the 17 million people who remain in Syria, 6.7 million of whom are internally displaced.
Cardinal Mario Zenari, apostolic nuncio in Syria for more than 13 years, lamented this desperate situation in an interview with Vatican News.
“I am extremely sorry to see that hope is dying,” said the cardinal who lived in Damascus throughout the war. “Of course, I was very sorry to see people, especially children, die during the war, but beyond this suffering, people harbored glimmers of hope; they said the war would eventually end and people could go back to work and earn some money and maybe fix their houses and get back to normal life.
Cardinal Zenari said this dream is a far cry from the reality that Syrians face today, which is filled with poverty.
“Bombs are no longer falling in many parts of Syria, but another terrible bomb has exploded, which has silently opened a gaping wound,” he said, referring to the 90 percent of Syrians who live there. poverty.
Syria, the Apostolic Nuncio added, faces persistent economic uncertainty, in large part due to international sanctions against the government.
He said the sanctions combine with growing corruption, the Covid-19 pandemic and the economic and political crisis in Lebanon to impose a heavy economic burden on the Syrian population.
Cardinal Zenari called on the European Union and the United States, as well as the Syrian government, to take a step in good faith and remove the sanctions regime, so that Syria can begin to rebuild and restart its economy.
“It is the people – the poor – who are suffering,” he said, citing a recent report from the World Food Program (WFP) which lists 12 million Syrians (60 percent of the population) in insecurity. food.
Another painful reality, added Cardinal Zenari, is the widespread disinterest on the part of the international media.
“Until two years ago, I received service requests from all over the world,” he said. “Now no one is asking questions about Syria. They tell me that the news on Syria is not journalistically interesting anymore.
And he thanked the Catholic and Christian news agencies who seek to “prevent Syria from being forgotten, to try to keep hope alive.”
Meeting of the Pope of the Syrian Church and charitable agencies
Cardinal Zenari then pointed out that Pope Francis had called a Vatican meeting – scheduled for March 15-17, 2022 – of the entire Syrian Church and charity agencies working in Syria.
The goal, the Cardinal said, is to coordinate the many charitable activities in Syria to better serve those in need.
“Over the past 10 years, everyone has worked with a lot of goodwill but with little coordination with others,” he said. “So the theme of the Synod on Synodality – the action of the Church to walk together – is a wonderful opportunity to walk together in the service of charity at this extremely difficult time for Syria.