Who is Mother Agnes-Mariam of the Cross?
Mother Agnes-Mariam of the Cross is spokesperson for the Catholic Media Centre of the Diocese of Homs, Hama and Yabroud in Syria. She is also one of the main representatives of the “Mussalaha” Reconciliation inter-faith Initiative, which has the support of all Syria’s religious communities. She has been a fearless and indefatigable proponent for Syria’s persecuted.
Mother Agnes-Mariam, who was born in a Palestinian refugee camp in Southern Lebanon in December, 1951, joined the contemplative Carmelite order in 1971, where she remained until 1992 when she founded a new religious order within the Greek-Catholic Melkite monastic tradition. She drew on French, Syriac and Hebrew monastic traditions to develop her new order which specialised in the study of iconography and other facets of the region’s rich religious traditions. These efforts culminated in the restoration of the Monastery of St. James the Mutilated near Qara in the Diocese of Homs, Syria, which is now surrounded by the rebels and, like Mother Agnes-Mariam herself, finds itself in the front line of Syria’s civil war.
Is Mother Agnes-Mariam of the Cross pro-Assad?
Mother Agnes-Mariam does not take a political position for or against the Assad government or any other political movement or party. Those who explicitly oppose the Assad government often interpret this as being pro-Assad, on the assumption that anyone that is not anti-Assad is pro-Assad. Mother Agnes-Mariam is a woman of faith, peace and justice, and is against violence and armed conflict. She stands up for Syria and its people by advocating for a civilized and peaceful solution.
She believes that Syrians should be free to choose their own government without pressure from either outsiders or insiders. Like all of Syria’s religious leaders, Mother Agnes-Mariam is a fearless proponent of peace through reconciliation. As a result, she and they are targets of those who oppose peace.
Does Mother Agnes-Mariam deny that the August 21st gas attacks took place?
No, she did not deny the attacks. However, she questions many of the videos that purported to show evidence of the attacks. She drew the attention of the United Nations to inconsistencies and anomalies in those videos. Because those inconsistencies and anomalies have still not been satisfactorily resolved, her criticisms still hold.
Who is funding the Mother Agnes Tour and the Syria Solidarity Movement?
The Mother Agnes Tour is financed entirely by the local sponsors of the tour, who book dates on the calendar. They each contribute $200 per event to the shared costs, such as the overseas tickets and mobile phones and they cover the travel from the previous city as well as local expenses. Typically, these costs are recovered by donations at the events. If there is any surplus, it goes to the Syria Solidarity Movement. Donations are tax deductable. As well, there is much donation of driving around and hospitality at the local level which saves on hotel bills, transportation and food costs.
The Syria Solidarity Movement is also funded by individual donations. We welcome grants from charitable foundations but do not accept government funding. Nearly all of the work is done by volunteers except for $500/mo. for web management and admin support. If you wish to support our work with a contribution or grant, please go to: http://www.syriasolidaritymovement.org/donate-2/
What is Mussalaha?
Mussalaha, which translates as Reconciliation, is a community-based non-violent popular initiative stemming from within Syrian civil society. Founded at the community level, it includes members of all Syria’s ethnic and religious communities who are tired of the war. It stands as a demonstration of hope that a third way option to armed conflict remains possible and provides an alternative to military intervention from abroad.
Mussalaha fills a void created by the noise of weapons: it does not side with any of the warring parties. Rather it embraces all. The movement says No to the continued loss of life which is bleeding the nation white.
The initiative says No to civil war and rejects all forms of sectarian violence and denominational strife. Its founding session was held on 25 January 2012 in the Sahara complex on the Syrian coast. Thanks to the prominent religious and national figures present there, this event has had a historic impact since it showed that a third way remains possible over and beyond the regime-opposition conflict: the way of civil society. These meetings have already had a very positive outcome, resulting in a public commitment to building a reconciled and peaceful Syria in the name of mutual respect, through the endorsement of joint declarations, and solemn commitments to reconciliation between groups, families and between the main protagonists in the current conflict. Despite the continuing conflict in Syria, the initiative continues to gain traction. It is imperative at this critical time that the Mussalaha reconciliation initiative be recognised, nurtured and supported by all who believe in peace through dialogue.
What Are Mussalaha’s Ten Points Towards Reconciliation and Peace?
· Support conflict resolution through negotiation and implementation of a democratic process.
· Stop the flow of weapons to Syria.
· Stigmatize the war methods that are against the Geneva Convention.
· Restrain interference from abroad in the Syrian conflict.
· Furnish honest information about the Syrian conflict.
· Support new political parties that are proliferating and giving new shape to the Syrian political landscape.
· Stop the sanctions, which are harming only the civilian population.
· Fairly distribute humanitarian aid.
· Appeal for impartiality among the diverse NGOs working in the Syrian conflict.
· Support a new state that will guarantee equality of citizenship and religious freedom to any religious and ethnic group.