Archbishop Mourad: World is letting the Syrian people die

In an interview with Vatican News, the Archbishop of Homs launches a plea for the Syrian people who risk dying of hunger after the World Food Programme suspended its general food assistance programme in the war-torn country due to funding shortages.

By Jean-Charles Putzolu and Francesca Sabatinelli

Six months ago the World Food Programme (WFP) reduced by half its food aid to Syria. As of 1 January 2024, the UN aid agency has ceased its general food assistance programme across the country due to funding shortages.

More than five million Syrians depended on the delivery of food and basic necessities because of the war that has ravaged Syria for nearly 13 years and, more recently, the devastating earthquake that hit the areas bordering Turkey in February 2023.

Suspension of food aid from WFP a ‘terrible and unfair decision’

The WFP explained that the funding crisis is related to the Covid pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and now the conflict in Gaza.  It is now estimated that over 12 million people live in severe food insecurity.

“The Syrian people are condemned to die without being able to say a word,” said Archbishop Jacques Mourad, who was appointed a year ago at the helm of the Archdiocese of Homs, the third largest city in Syria.

“It is a terrible and unfair decision,” he told Vatican News’ Jean Charles Putzolu, wondering how this could be possible. “For us, it is as if the world were telling the Syrian people, ‘You are condemned to die, without raising your voice, without saying anything’. And for what? What is the fault of the Syrian people?” he asked.

The Church cannot cover all needs

His forceful words were motivated by the suffering endured by the Syrian people after years of war, which continues to shatter all their hopes.

Archbishop Mourad remarked that the WFP decision will “throw the Syrian people into complete despair, extinguishing any glimmer of light our faith and hope had left. This is the end for us.”

Non-governmental organizations and the Catholic Church have seemingly worked miracles in Syria in recent years, supporting the population in every way.

Today, the interruption of international humanitarian aid, which served almost two-thirds of the Syrian population, leaves people to wonder if they can still hope they will not die of hunger.

“The Church, along with non-governmental organizations, cannot cover all the needs of the Syrian people because their financial capacity is limited,” explained Archbishop Mourad.

Syrians are condemned to death

Furthermore, getting the money to Syria is impossible due to the sanctions imposed by the United States and the UN.

“So, what do we do? How can the Syrian people live?” the Archbishop of Homs asked, noting that many families in Syria already live on only one meal a day.

“We have forgotten what heating means because we cannot buy diesel or wood; we have forgotten what hot water is; we have forgotten what a society is. And we live in total darkness because the cities in Syria are without light.”

“Certainly,” he added, “the rich neighborhoods, which only account for 5% of the population, are not representative of the situation of the Syrian people.”

Archbishop Mourad concluded by saying that his only hope now lies in the European Union and that it will take a clear stand based on “sincere and human sensitivity” to the plight of the Syrian people, who seem to have been abandoned by the entire world.  

“Why do you want to let these people die? What have we done wrong to be condemned to die?” he lamented.