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But we also live in fear. The Kurds, who are in the majority in northeastern Syria, have formed a new authority parallel to the central government in Damascus. The Kurds are hoping to achieve independence and have taken control of the oil wells, made military service mandatory, imposed taxes on the citizens and have introduced Kurdish in the schools. Our fear is that after ISIS is cut down, the central government will try to limit the Kurds’ control and a new conflict will erupt and eventually push our youth to emigrate.

It’s worth mentioning here the hard situation so many are facing. Consider health care, for example. Public and private hospitals are not fit to receive patients, which affects their health — especially patients with chronic cases. Because of a lack of medication paired with the emigration of 80 percent of the country’s doctors and nurses, neither the government nor the Kurdish authorities can meet the needs of the citizens.

Daily life is difficult because of the expensive living conditions. Unemployment is a huge problem. It is hard to meet even the most basic needs, especially as the price of sugar, rice or any other basic food keeps rising. People, who can barely afford to live as it is, are forced to pay bribes at checkpoints. The average salary ranges between $70 and $100 per month. There is also very little electricity, so people have to use a portable generator, which contaminates and pollutes.

Agricultural production has decreased by 70 percent in the region, because ISIS burned and destroyed much of the most fertile land. About 30 percent of the agriculture activity is still ongoing, so some people can find a way to survive.

In the meantime, we cope. From the start of the attacks on our region, we have daily liturgies with the children of the parish, and afterward we gather to talk about our fears and concerns. The children are encouraged to participate in the Divine Liturgy and to get involved in catechetical and pastoral activities so they grow in the grace of Jesus, develop a prayer life and make their faith a part of their lives.

So how can I be a good shepherd? I spend time with every single person who belongs to the parish. I want to know what is happening in their lives. I help them to focus on their faith, their Christianity. And I try to stay connected with people, even those who have left the country — we have a Facebook page for the Chaldean community from Hassake. Social media helps our people — especially those now scattered worldwide — know what is happening with their parish and their families, and updates them on new activities in the area.

Our faith always calls for peace, but politics and bad politicians are always setting fires and disturbing the situation. I try to stay away from political discussions. My mission is to take care of my parish, to help my parishioners and to try and enrich the parish with fruitful spiritual activities.

While Syria’s many Christian communities face many and varied challenges right now, there is only one thing we all truly need: peace.

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