Mother Agnes helps evacuate civilians from the besieged rebel-held city of Moaddamiyah

It seems that Mother Agnes has aroused the ire of those favouring US intervention in Syria. Some have even stooped so low as to suggest that in this latest life-saving initiative Mother was acting under orders of the head of Syria’s National Security Bureau! (see here)

I know Mother Agnes pretty well and she is not big on taking order from anyone, with the possible exception of her beloved Bishop, Gregory III Laham  – another wonderful advocate of peace. Even the Patriarch though does not attempt to orchestrate Mother Agnes’ activities directly.

In truth, Mother Agnes walks a lonely path, earning the ire of countless rebel sympathisers and often under criticism from Assad supporters as well who feel she should be giving no humanitarian support to the rebels! Her loyalty is to Christ, to truth, and to the people of Syria.

The following account and pictures were sent to me by Mother Agnes herself. I have not tried to improve on her English but note that while it is not perfect, her English is a lot better than my French or Arabic, in which she is also fluent.

Father Dave 

with Mother Agnes and Mairead Maguire in Damascus

with Mother Agnes and Mairead Maguire in Damascus

EVACUATING CIVILIANS FROM MOADDAMIYAH – A BESIEGED REBEL CITY IN DAMASCUS WESTERN GHOUTA

Damascus – 15 to 10 ( KUNA ) – The official Syrian news agency ( SANA ) reported the evacuation of five thousand four hundred women and children from the town of El -Sham Mouadamieh , besieged for months, and who suffers daily violent clashes between the Syrian opposition and government forces.

The agency said that the Ministry of Social Affairs , in collaboration with the province of Damascus and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent has transferred during three days five thousand four hundred women and children belonging to al- Sham Mouadamieh to transfer to a center temporary accommodation in the province of Damascus.

The Minister of Social Affairs Kinda Chammat assured in a press release sillicitude the government to provide decent living conditions for women and children who have suffered greatly .

Mother Fadia Laham (in religion Agnès -Mariam of the Cross) , general coordinator of the initiative, drew attention that the plan is carried out whereby the evacuation of children , women and the elderly who need emergency care will continue in other areas through communication with local stakeholders and coordination with the relevant authorities.

Mother Agnes Mariam said that the success of this initiative gives an indication of the need to seek a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis with Syrian actors.

Standing before the military barricade of the chemical plant in Moaddamiyya. It is closed by a mound of earth since eight months.

Standing before the military barricade of the chemical plant in Moaddamiya. It is closed by a mound of earth since eight months.

The bulldozer opens a breach in the fence for the first time since eight months

The bulldozer opens a breach in the fence for the first time since eight months

No man's land between the fence and the entrance arch West Moaddamiya The coordinating team will wait for an hour to no avail. The rebels refuse, by force of arms, that civilians leave the city.

No man’s land between the fence and the entrance arch West Moaddamiya

The coordinating team will wait for an hour to no avail. The rebels refuse, by force of arms, that civilians leave the city.

Despite the entreaties of her team, Agnès-Mariam is producing a white flag and adventure beyond the entrance arch, in rebel territory.

Despite the entreaties of her team, Agnès-Mariam is producing a white flag and adventure beyond the entrance arch, in rebel territory.

Members of the team are watching anxiously for her.

Members of the team are watching anxiously for her.

Her team follows her

Her team follows her

Joined by Sister Carmel and two members of her team, Mother Agnès-Mariam is welcomed by the men of the revolution came without their weapons.

Joined by Sister Carmel and two members of her team, Mother Agnès-Mariam is welcomed by the men of the revolution came without their weapons.

Out of the factory they find themselves with women from Mouaddamiyya waiting for their evacuation. Mother Agnes cries seeing the thinness of this woman. After a brief course through the destroyed and damaged town, the rebels take the team to the headquarters of the Military Council: an apartment on the first floor of a building. Arriving there every fighter will ask to listen personally to the explanations of the sisters. Mistrust gives way to confidence, even to relax.

Out of the factory they find themselves with women from Mouaddamiyya waiting for their evacuation.

Mother Agnes cries seeing the thinness of this woman. After a brief course through the destroyed and damaged town, the rebels take the team to the headquarters of the Military Council: an apartment on the first floor of a building.

Arriving there every fighter will ask to listen personally to the explanations of the sisters. Mistrust gives way to confidence, even to relax.

With a young militiaman wearing on his forehead the flag of the revolution

With a young militiaman wearing on his forehead the flag of the revolution

The present militia men represent various rebel factions: Free Syrian Army but also Jubhat Al Nosra recognizable to the Islamic banner on the front. A wounded shows his bandaged arm.

The present militia men represent various rebel factions: Free Syrian Army but also Jubhat Al Nosra recognizable to the Islamic banner on the front. A wounded shows his bandaged arm.

Then “independent revolutionaries” arrive: they wanted to arrest two members of Mother Agnes-Mariam team because they were accused to have links with the government. They were opposed by the other factions. A battle occurred with rifles and wristle.

Finally a proeminent leader arrives. He asks his men to hide the warranted people and he secure a safe exit to Mother Agnes-Mariam and to Sister Carmel.

Finally a prominent leader arrives. He asks his men to hide the warranted people and he secure a safe exit to Mother Agnes-Mariam and to Sister Carmel.

Eating together olives (the unique vegetable available in the besieged city) as a sign of peace

Eating together olives (the unique vegetable available in the besieged city) as a sign of peace

In the destroyed streets of Moadamiyah there is a “feast”, a friendly encounter…

In the destroyed streets of Moadamiyah there is a “feast”, a friendly encounter…

The trust has been built. It will allow the evacuation of 5000 civilians before sabotages occurred and prevent the continuation of this initiative

The trust has been built. It will allow the evacuation of 5000 civilians before sabotages occurred and prevent the continuation of this initiative

The impressive humanitarian armada waiting for the evacuation of the civilians

The impressive humanitarian armada waiting for the evacuation of the civilians

A unique photo: rebels and pro-government militiamen are together like…brothers !

A unique photo: rebels and pro-government militiamen are together like…brothers !

Finally the arrival to the refugee center in New Damascus

Finally the arrival to the refugee center in New Damascus

Volunteers and Governorate personnel welcome the evacuated civilians in Qoudsiyya guest house.

Volunteers and Governorate personnel welcome the evacuated civilians in Qoudsiya guest house.

We wanted to evacuate everybody the third day but it was impossible. A lot of critics from the part of the Popular Committees, they were saying “you are helping the families of the militiamen that are killing our families”.

But we kept negotiating and bypassed the critics. We appointed three days later another day to finish the evacuation. This day begun with an impressive presence of International Red Cross and Red Crescent ambulances, mobile clinics and volunteers and more than 30 buses. Alas the warlords did not accept the evacuation. We could not open the gate and some undisciplined militiamen opened the fire on the army who answered with bombs.

The media said that there were killed and injured people. Nobody knows the reality because the videos issued from Moaddamiya if they are true do not show injured people and when they show they are obviously fake.

We knew that this day the warlords did not want any more civilians to go out: they need them as human shields and they were not happy that the prices dropped down by the half because of the exit of 5000 citizens.

In all cases this day we suffered a lot. Al Jazeera reported falsely that Mother Agnes-Mariam declared that the “terrorists” breached the cease fire and this was a provocation for the militiamen. They were angry and showed how she entered to their stronghold along with sister Carmel and ate olives with them as a sign of friendship: how could she call us terrorists? Rumors circulated on the web that the Free Syrian Army decided to slaughter Mother Agnes Mariam. Nobody could explain why?

(if you can’t see the video version of this celebration, click here)

Then the battle of Moaddamiya ignited.

We think about the women and children that are still there. We think about the women and children that are still in Daraya. All those people asked us to intervene and evacuate them. But the warlords prefer not.

Nevertheless we are proud to have been able to put in a safe place 5000 civilians. We believe that despite the obstacles mediation in Syria is possible. Reconciliation in Syria is possible. Peace in Syria is possible

Help Syria with Mediation, Reconciliation and PEACE.

Thank you !

Agnes-Mariam of the Cross

Head of the International Support Team for Musalaha (Reconciliation) in Syria

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2 Responses to Mother Agnes helps evacuate civilians from the besieged rebel-held city of Moaddamiyah

  1. Pingback: Not-quite-weekly Missive – November 4th, 2013 | Father Dave's Monday Missive

  2. Pingback: Mother Agnès-Mariam de la Croix-an agent of truth and peace | Syria Solidarity Movement

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