ASIA/SYRIA - An Orthodox Archbishop: conflict and refugees on the Turkish-Syrian border, between fear and uncertainty

Hassaké (Agenzia Fides) - "There is great fear among families of different communities for their future. People are so afraid of a real war that could break out at any time between Turkey and Syria. We do not know what could happen in the big cities like Kamishly and Hassaké in my Archdiocese of Jazirah and Euphrates": is what His Exc. Mgr. Eustathius Matta roham, Syrian-Orthodox Archbishop of Jazirah and Euphrates tells Fides Agency, talking about the delicate situation on the turkish-Syrian border, that recently has got worse for the violent clashes and a large influx of refugees. "A Turkish-Syrian conflict could turn into a regional war. People are very worried about their children, for women and for their properties. Many of them are always ready to emigrate to Europe and other neighboring countries, which are considered safer. We live in uncertainty: it is very difficult to say what could happen tomorrow," he explained in a worried tone.
The Archbishop, who is in Hassaké, describes in particular the situation of two cities in his diocese: Ras Al-Ayn and Derbasieh. Ras Al-Ayn has been the theatre of fighting since last Thursday, November 8, and has been occupied by the forces of the Syrian opposition: "The people fled and left behind property and all of their assets. Now it is very risky to go to the city. The current fighting will lead to its destruction. I fear that the fate of our Christian community and churches, as well as that of other communities, will be similar to that of other towns like Homs and Deir Ezzor."
A Syro-Orthodox priest, Fr. Touma Qas Ibrahim, pastor of the church of St. Thomas in Ras Al-Ayn, bravely went into town to retrieve the prayer books, especially some ancient liturgical manuscripts written by hand, and his mission was successful. "We are grateful to God because Fr.Touma was able to enter the church and return unharmed" said the Archbishop.
Same fate for Derbasieh: on November 9th most people fled for fear of being in the crossfire. Fr. Michael Yacoub of the church of St. Osyo reached Hassaké, the seat of the Archdiocese, with other families of displaced Christians. The Archbishop said: "The people of Derbasieh was invited to leave their homes, as the opposition forces, which are beyond the border in turkish territory, were ready to occupy the city. There was also an agreement between the opposition and the local Kurdish community, who represent the majority in Derbasieh: government officials agreed to leave the city without fighting and this agreement saved the lives of many civilians." (PA) (Agenzia Fides 12/11/2012)

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