Thousands of children in Syria celebrated “International Children’s Day” as a prayer day for peace
On 1 June, thousands of children of all denominations gathered in several Syrian cities to celebrate “International Children’s Day” as a prayer day for peace.
In Homs, this was the first public event held with children since the liberation of the city. From there, the Christian television station “Tele Lumière” broadcast the initiative all over the Middle East. More than 700 children dressed in white gathered together with the Catholic and Orthodox bishops in what was once a city under siege, a city in which Jesuit father Frans van der Lugt was murdered in April of 2014. They made their way through the city in a procession, stopping to pray together at the churches of the various Christian denominations.
Bishop Abdo Arbach, the Melkite Greek Catholic bishop of Homs, held an address that has been relayed to Aid to the Church in Need. He said: “We have had enough of war, of destruction, of child trafficking. We want to live, we want to enrich our children with a good upbringing. (…) We will never accept that they have to live without hope and far away from their homes!” He appealed to the international community “that this war may end and that they act as per human rights charter and children’s rights. God, give us peace!”
The destroyed Melkite Greek Catholic cathedral, which is consecrated to “Our Lady, Queen of Peace”, was adorned with a monumental poster of the Infant Jesus of Prague. In the Melkite cathedral, the bishops joined the children in a prayer to the Infant Jesus. Bishop Arbach said that the Infant Jesus is “the source of peace for our children and our country because His greeting is ‘Peace be with you’.” They also lit candles before a statue of the Infant Jesus.
Similar events, which continued throughout the day, were also simultaneously held in Damascus, Tartus, Marmarita and Aleppo. “We hope that the initiative of these children spreads and many other children all over the world pray for peace,” the Maronite bishop of Latakia and Tartus, Mons. Antoine Chbeir, said to the pastoral charity. In Tartus, children also showed posters they had drawn, in which they asked for prayers for peace as well as the end of terrorism and the war in Syria.
During the Angelus prayer on 29 May, Pope Francis had invited children all over the world to join the children in Syria in their prayer for peace. The Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs of the country issued a joint message calling upon children to observe this prayer day, which began as an initiative of Aid to the Church in Need.