Christians view Good Friday as a day of cruel suffering. Regardless of one’s religion, the death of an innocent man at the hands of Roman conquerors remains repugnant and repulsive. As the Roman Empire crumbled, the corpus of the crucified Jesus endured as a reminder of the hideousness that conquered people often endure.
Today, Good Friday hangs over Syria as an on-going symbol of how everyday citizens experience pain when the weapons of the government are aimed at them. We do well to weep for the Syrian people.
The March 24, 2013 edition of The New York Times ran a front-page story about Syrians being forced to live in ancient Roman caves to escape death by bombing and attacks. The United States estimates they are part of 4 million people who have been forced out of their homes. The caves appear to be the only escape for many. These damp, unlit caverns have been abandoned for centuries, but provide the only protection for many even though it is almost impossible to stay warm. In this cold, dark ancient shelter it is hard for those suffering deprivation not to blame the West for its lack of support in ending their struggle.
To make matters worse, doctors and surgeons have become targets of government attack. Six months ago, Syrians secret police captured Dr. M. Nour Maktabi in Aleppo. That was the last his family heard of him until they were summoned to collect his corpse. When the family last saw Dr. Maktabi, he weighted 200 pounds. His body covered with wounds now weighted less than a l00 pounds.
Medical personnel who help rebels (or are suspected of helping) simply disappear. To date, more than 100 doctors have been killed. In a country with an acute shortage of physicians, this carnage has forced everyone from medical students and nurses to car mechanics to perform minor surgery. Specialist are gone and machines like CT scanners are no longer working. Patients with chronic diseases like cancer or tuberculosis are virtually helpless.
France and Britain are pushing the European Union to lift an embargo on arms shipment to the rebels. However, other European nations continue to be skeptical about sending weapons into such a volatile region. The United States remains rightly concerned about arms falling into radical hands. However, this wall of resistance appears to be cracking. American CIA agents are now reported to be arming and assisting select rebel units that appear to be politically more stable.
These signs suggest the fall of Assad is in sight although the war drags on. However on this Good Friday, death hangs in the air. Pain and misery continue. These sufferings as well as the dying Jesus all arise out of the valley of death. As we rejoice in the approach of Easter Sunday, let us also pray for the Syrian people that they may be released from the underground caves so much like the tomb of Jesus. Let us continue to intercede for the medical community that their crucifixions will come to an end as well.