By John Pontifex
A Syrian prelate has described desperate efforts to tend to the injured and the dying following multiple ISIS attacks on Tartous and Jableh which have left more than 200 dead and nearly 650 injured.
Bishop Antoine Chbeir told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church (ACN) that the May 23 attacks in his diocese were the first of their kind in an area where displaced Syrians had gathered by the hundreds of thousands.
The coastal region has remained under Syrian government control and was considered to be one of the country’s last remaining safe havens for Muslims and Christians alike.
The prelate warned that the attacks on the two coastal cities may prompt a surge in people fleeing Syria: “If there are no safe areas in Syria, still more people will leave the country—probably for good. Many of them will go by sea.”
According to local news reports, the apparent aim of ISIS was to strike the Assad regime in its core stronghold, which is backed by the nearby Russian fleet.
The Maronite bishop of Latakia described the desperate efforts of clergy and laity diocese to come to the aid of victims, adding that today priests have begun burying the dead.
Bishop Chbeir said: “We are trying to help the people and are taking care of the wounded. It is a very dramatic situation and when the disaster struck we wondered if we could cope.”
“Right now, our priests and people are on the scene. They are visiting the people – many of them have broken legs and deep wounds, not to mention the psychological effects.”
Bishop Chbeir continued: “First of all, we need physical and material help, just to help those affected to have something to eat and to help them take care of those who are suffering the most.”
The bishop also added: “We care for people not because of their particular religion but because they are human beings. In this month of May, we are praying to Our Lady to help us.”
Directly under the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity - helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
Founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An Outstanding Apostle of Charity,” the organization is now at work in over 145 countries throughout the world.
The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 43 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide.