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Mariyam al-Aadhra Church, Sulaymaniya-Iraq, 29 May 2012
Last Friday and Saturday, I watched with complete bewilderment the news. I asked myself sincerely if this is the same country that I have known for nineteen years and in which I lived ten years. Was it really the same country I left some months ago for my new mission here in Kurdish Iraq.
I have known Syria as a country with friendly people who love to drink tea or maté with each other, the land of profoundly religious persons who deeply respect the religion of their neighbors. Is it not the country with the kind language which makes a chat so enjoyable? Is it possible that in one year, all what seemed to be deeply rooted in the hearts of the people disappeared at once? Are the persons I have known gone, making room to other persons unknown to me?
Now is the time for the "old" Syrians to come back; for the citizens of Homs, whose self-portraying jokes filled with laughter the whole Arab world, to cheer again their city and their country; for the Aleppians to use their knowledge and their abilities for negotiation; and for the Damascenes to build bridges with their culture and their tolerant way of life.
Time is definitely over to stand aside watching, although perplexity in the face of such a deep change is understandable. But now, after the massacre of Houla, it is not possible anymore to remain quiet.
No, I am not one of those who eagerly make suggestions on how the new Syrian society should be. There are already too many making possible and impossible proposals. I am interested in something else: the identity of the Syrian people.
Whoever came to Syria experienced this: the deeply rooted hospitality granted by all parts of the population, the poor and the rich, Christians and Muslims, Shiites and Sunnis, Druze or atheists alike... all enjoy deeply giving hospitality.
Is it possible for a people so caring for the stranger and the other to become their own butcher?
I pray to God the Almighty that the martyr children of Houla may eventually open the eyes of a nation to where violence leads. Is it not obvious that the so-called resistance/protection causes in one way or another the death of so many other innocent children? Or that the fight against "armed bands" will often hit the wrong people?
Syria is not a unique case. Thousands of civil wars fought in history followed exactly the same scheme. Politicians may be of some help, but they do not make much effort if they do not feel the determination of the population to end the crisis in a non-violent way.
Did you Syrians think about what it takes to end the crises violently? Mothers, are you ready to burry thousands of your sons and daughters? The fathers will have preceded them already in mass graves. Are you aware of the fact that your children will not receive a good education anymore nor will they learn a proper handcraft in times of war?
Knowing who you are, will you be able, mothers, to make peace with the mother of your child’s murder, the child who died in your arms, for the good of the kids in your quarter? Would it not be better to seek peace right now, consoling and asking forgiveness from the mothers of the victims?
The murder of the children and civilians of Houla should be the occasion for you now to take a far-reaching decision for the coming Syria. This new Syria is too complex to be conquered with weapons. Minorities have their fears and need true guarantees of good will, especially from their neighbors.
We should not consider ourselves victims of obscure powers from the outside. An honest and clear attitude with each other will neutralize the dark interests from the inside and outside.
From the very first day of the so-called Arab Spring, my community has been praying for Syria, inviting all, wherever they are, to join us in prayer. Through the intercession of the children martyrs of Houla, we ask the Lord of the Creation to touch the hearts of all Syrians and all man of good will.
Brother Jens Petzold