11 Syria’s Bloody War - Fr Cedric Prakash SJ

posted Mar 8, 2018, 11:08 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Mar 8, 2018, 11:09 AM ]
"I am going to tell God everything!" were apparently the last words of a three-year-old Syrian child before she died. These heart-rending words, accompanied by a moving picture of a child, have been doing the rounds of social media, along with thousands of other messages, pictures, videos on the Syrian war. It is hardly possible to authenticate or verify such reports. Nevertheless, the words and the picture of the child sums it all: the utter hopelessness and helplessness of a people who have been enveloped in a tragic bloody war which does not seem to end; for many in the war-torn land of Syria, "just to die" seems the only way out and then "to tell God everything!" On the face of it, this sounds rather cynical; but often when despair sets it, hope and resilience take a backseat!

February 2018 has been an extremely bad month for Syria, and by all counts, the worst phase of the conflict which began on March 15, 2011. The war until now was mainly concentrated in Homs, Aleppo, Al Raqaa and some other areas. Damascus, the capital city, though subject to some intermittent attacks these past years, was regarded as a relatively safe and secure place. That reality, this past month, has changed dramatically, with areas in and around Damascus subject to heavy artillery and aerial bombardments; besides, people from the besieged areas are, apparently, as a last ditch effort, also resorting to indiscriminate bombing in the densely populated areas of the old city. Bombing from the different warring factions has meant many fatalities, severe casualties, and all round destruction.

Today, Damascus, once a thriving metropolis, wears the appearance of a ghost town. There is very little movement on the streets. A large section of the people have left the city for safer and more secure places, in other parts of the country. Fear and a cloud of uncertainty has gripped everybody. In the early afternoon of February 20, Ms Vivian Shaheen (who also volunteers with the Jesuit Refugee Service) was about to leave her workplace in a Government facility in the heart of Damascus. After days of experiencing frequent shelling in the Bab Tuoma area, Vivian had decided to take a break from Damascus, and go to her family home in Maara, which is a safer location. She had just said "goodbye" to a close friend and colleague, Ms Lama Fallouh, who was also headed home. Suddenly from nowhere, a bomb exploded; Vivian did not know what had hit her, just that she was bleeding profusely. She was able to run to a vehicle that had come to pick her up and was rushed to a nearby hospital. A shrapnel had pierced her right shoulder (fragmenting the bones there) and exiting from her upper arm. Her friend Lama was killed instantaneously by that bomb! The tragic everyday reality of a people who have to deal with not only the violence, but also the pain and trauma in the sudden loss of a loved one.