During the meeting of Syrian bishops in Geneva on October 9, 2016, Archbishop Antiba gave a sobering account of the state of his diocese.
Archbishop Nicolas Antiba, Melkite Greek Catholic archbishop of Bosra and Hauran, was the guest of honor at 100th anniversary celebration of the church of Villars-sur-Glâne, in the canton of Freiburg, Switzerland on October 9, 2016. The Syrian parish and the Swiss parish, both under the patronage of Sts. Peter and Paul, are united by a financial and spiritual bond.
Archbishop Antiba, who was born on December 25, 1945 in Aleppo, agreed to speak with Cath-Info (Swiss Conference of the Bishops Media - Ed.) The archdiocese covers an immense surface, all the south of Syria to the Jordanian and Palestinian borders, and the situation differs greatly from place to place.
We certainly have security problems, but our region is calmer than others. Nonetheless some so-called ‘rebel’ groups take action sometimes. Thus Khabib, the location of our bishop’s palace, was bombarded. The Christians feel that they are in danger and many have already emigrated.”
During the meeting of Syrian bishops in Geneva on May 8, 2014, Archbishop Antiba recalled that many fields of the breadbasket that the archdiocese represents had been ravaged and destroyed by the “rebels” in order to create a famine and to try to get part of the population to revolt against the authorities of Damascus.
The archbishop explained:
I call these groups ‘rebels’ because I can find no other word. But most of them are not Syrians. So I do not know what they are coming to ‘rebel’ against in our country.”
Archbishop Antiba, who has friends in Aleppo, was able to declare:
...the information on those responsible for the bombings that is broadcasted in the Western world is very often exaggerated, sometimes false. The Western world sticks to a very precise agenda – the destruction of Bashar el Assad – that is not necessarily the way to ensure peace in Syria. The first thing needed is for the great powers to stop getting involved in this war on the field. It is counterproductive to support the so-called ‘moderate’ groups. There are no moderate groups. ... Peace will return only if ammunition and supplies for these groups are cut off. Rather than bombing, the great powers should put pressure on the countries financing and arming the ‘rebels’.”
Today, Christians represent only 8 to 9 % of the Archeparchy of Basra and Haran, over an immense territory of 11,500 square km (Ed: 4,440 sq. mi). And “every sign of solidarity between Christians is essential,” concluded the archbishop. “First of all by prayer, for we believe in the strength of prayer, it is a very strong support for us. With the people here, who pray for peace, we can create chains of spiritual parenthood.”
Sources: cath-info/pgc – DICI 343 Oct. 28, 2016