Archbishop says his people are 'heroes of the faith' but face a Christmas of anguish and neglect

The Maronite Archbishop of Damascus has said that 21 people, including five children, have died from the winter cold in his diocese in an email to supporters.

Archbishop Samir wrote to supporters and released a letter praising persecuted Christians as “heroes of the faith”.

In a letter entitled “Christmas solitude”, Archbishop Samir Nassar wrote: “The Eastern Christians, a minority living at the crossroads of danger, are struggling to take the road of testimony. The rise of fanaticism, insecurity, shortages of all kinds and blockades, threaten their presence and reduce their hope. Despite this tense atmosphere, the small flock of faithful expresses unwavering, courageous and firm faith.

“A new relationship to God is affirmed in silent prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. They have the rosary in hand and will not easily leave the Church as they are in solidarity with the poor and a long litany of martyrs, the seed of Christians. These heroes of the faith are the strength of the Church and the horizon of hope.”

The archbishop said the people of Damascus felt condemned to live in danger and die. He wrote: “Our loyal Damascus feels isolated, condemned to live in danger, and die in a ‘hole’ cut off from relatives and friends already living in Lebanon. This loneliness adds to the anguish, the bitter cold winter experience, the sad tenor and feeling of neglect.”

He continued: “Our neighbours do not want us as we welcome all refugees in the Near East. Our faithful spend their Christmas celebration in the freezing cold of their ‘household nativity’ relying on the warmth of their faith under the tender gaze of the Holy Family.”