WHERE IS LATAKIA AND WHAT ARE
SOME OF THE ISSUES
Where is Latakia
From Bishop Chbeir's letter:
The Diocese of Latakia is composed for four provinces and covers about 20,000 square miles. For comparison, the Diocese of Ogdensburg covers about 12,000 square miles. The four provinces are Tartus, Latakia, Hama and Homs. Bishop Chbeir has been the Eparch (Maronite Bishop) since May of 2015.
Some of the challenges since the beginning:
- An inflow of Christian and Muslim refugees from Damascus, Aleppo and all across Syria since Latakia is relatively calm (it "only" (!) had two car bombs and three suicide attacks over a period of seven months).
- Few resources and tools to care for the refugees fleeing the conflict
Pastoral Activities are concentrated in the following areas
See how similar we are!
- Catechism for children and young adults
- Formation for Catechists
- Biblical Formation for families
- Marriage Preparation workshops
But then there are these:
- Education programs for refugees
- Psychological rehabilitation programs for children, young people, women, and men traumatized by horrible scenes of war
- Dialogue between different confessions of Syrian society: Catholic, Orthodox, Alouites, Sunnis, Shias, Yazidis, Druz...
Starving Stomachs Have No Ears
This French saying means that those whose basic human needs have not been met are not able to take advantage of the catechesis and formation that the Church offers. Everything takes a back seat to survival and simply finding food for your children or medicine for a sick family member, or shelter from the element if you are homeless.
So, the Diocese of Latakia has relief programs that assist refugees, as well as the local people whose money has lost most of its value because of the war.
The diocese offers basic assistance to the poor:
- Household goods such as blankets, mattresses, kitchen equipment
As well as special subsidies to assist with:
- Rent (rental costs have skyrocketed since the influx of people creates a high demand for limited housing)
- Medical Care (there is no insurance safety net)
God is Greater!
God has turned economic and existential disasters into a spiritual richness.
- The Cathedral is packed to capacity on Sundays
- There are socials after Mass with coffee
- The Bishop’s house has a nice community with the Vicar General, a finance officer, three seminarians and two French teachers (so that the seminarians can go and study at seminary in Lebanon. This small community is able to pray the Liturgy of the Hours together and the rosary in the evening which brings great serenity and joy
- There is hope for the future, hope to build schools
A community cannot be built on only humanitarian relief!
- Syria needs to prepare for schools and foreign language study after the war – most Christians only speak Arabic which leaves them disconnected from the western cultures
- The diocese supports it's priests who have stayed despite the war with spiritual, pastoral, cultural and financial support so that they can in turn minister to the people. Many of these priests survive on mass intentions sent from abroad (see our Pontifical Mission Society pages)