Syria's journey into hope
Updated: Aug 2, 2019
By Francesco Foti
Edited by Josie Child
This year’s Easter comes at a peculiar time in Syria’s journey towards post-war recovery.
There are a multitude of challenges for both the Syrians and the international community to navigate if we are to see a self-determined Syrian people empowered to rebuild their country. The situation looks bleak, with young people leaving in huge numbers to seek safety in the West, high internal displacement, continued disruption to infrastructure such as schools, and unreliable access to basic necessities such as electricity and internet.
In all of humanity, we see doubt, anger, loss, treachery, and weakness. Faced with such huge earthly challenges, we should redirect our gazes to the bigger picture that only God can give us. The passion, death, and resurrection of Christ gives us the chance to ponder on the higher things of God: "faith, hope, and love… and the greatest of these is love".
In Christ, we see the conquering and overcoming of the things of the world which keep us rooted in fear. In the face of incredible adversity, we see life and beauty.
It seems to me that the beloved and troubled Syria is the perfect image for this Easter. It’s a picture of suffering beyond imagination, a country torn to pieces by an eight-year downwards spiral of violence, death and persecution, now – at last - slowly reaching upward through the rubble towards recovery. The war in Syria has been one of the lower points in human history, a war that has brought out the most brutal and selfish instincts and passions. At its worst, it replaced the God of Good, Mercy, and Creation with the God of Destruction and Annihilation of the ‘other’. It sought to erase the Godly principle of diversity that characterizes any healthy society, and exploit this diversity falsely in the name of God.
But the mystery and almost ineffability of the incarnation of God in Christ is the certainty to which we cling. It is the cornerstone of humanity and the rock upon which we build our hope. Christ is the model on which Christians are called to shape their inner and earthly journey. Christ our Saviour has willingly faced and overcome the meaninglessness, fear and temptation that we can all feel. The cross of Calvary is not the ultimate, empty destination of men, but a cathartic, purifying path to freedom. When we pass spiritually through the cross, we leave the things of the world behind and instead become what we were meant to be: creatures of God, and therefore, creatures of faith, hope and love.
St. Ambrose of Milan said:“What gain is it to celebrate unless you imitate Him Whom you worship; that is, unless you cross over from Egypt, that is, from the darkness of evildoing to the light of virtue, from the love of this world to the love of your heavenly home?"
By following Christ to the cross and on to the other side, we become overcomers, turning terrible loss into an expectation for hope and renewal. In this way we prove to ourselves and to the world that we are not the people of the cold, hard cross, but the people of the all-embracing resurrection.
Syria, then, is a powerful, immediate icon of mankind’s lowest and highest possibilities, and of renewed strength in spite of, or even through, immense loss. The steadfast people who work in and around Syria for inclusion instead of division should be championed. As Syria starts its fragile post-war phase, let’s celebrate and support the peace-makers who are seeking solutions and a future for the Syrians.
And as Easter approaches, let’s look to the one who overcame the most incredible adversity for inspiration as we remain hopeful and expectant for more.
What do you think of Francesco's approach to Easter this year? Please tell us in the comments!