Good Friday and other Easter processions and festivals have been cancelled across Syria as street unrest boils over into violence.
The country’s Christian population has been forced to abandon its usually colourful and exuberant commemorations because of the number of “martyrs” who have died and the “bad situation”, a senior church official told The Daily Telegraph.
The whole country is braced for a wave of protests on Friday, despite an announcement that President Bashir al-Assad had signed a decree lifting the 48-year state of emergency, a key demand.
Government promises of reform combined with violence by armed plain-clothes security forces have only served to bolster the opposition, who are planning more demonstrations after regular Muslim Friday prayers.
But today these will clash with Good Friday services, which would normally see processions and public gatherings by Syria’s Christian minority, estimated at between 1-2 million, or around five per cent of the population.
“We are not receiving official congratulations,” Bishop Philoxenos Mattias, Assistant to the Syriac Orthodox Church Patriarchate in Damascus, the country’s biggest Christian denomination, said.
“All of the Syrian churches have decided this together because of the bad situation and because of the martyrs who have died in recent days, out of respect for them.”
He said services would still take place inside the churches, but all street processions and public music performances had been cancelled. “We decided to postpone them till next year,” he added.
Normally streets in the Christian quarters of Damascus and other cities would see parades by uniformed marching bands and choirboys and even re-enactments of the Crucifixion.
One nun, speaking from her monastery but asking not to be identified, said Christians were afraid even to come to church.
“They do not feel safe,” she said. “There aren’t going to be any celebrations, but just prayers inside church. On Palm Sunday we cancelled the celebrations too.”…