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Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2494

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Art from the Syrian war exhibited at Shrewsbury Cathedral

 

A series of paintings depicting the Syrian war in the eyes of a Christian artist have been exhibited at Shrewsbury Cathedral.

The paintings are part of the exhibition called Portraits of Faith: Syria’s Christians Search for Peace that has been arranged by Aid to the Church in Need, the Catholic charity helping persecuted Christians.

They are the creations of Farid Georges, 70, a Syriac Othodox Christian from Homs, a city formerly on the front line of the six-year war.

Some of them show the city at peace before the war while others show horrific violence as fighting engulfed the region.

One of them, called The Explosion (pictured with Farid above), captures a blast witnessed by Farid during an attack on Homs in 2013.

Others point toward the hope of Christians for peace and reconciliation between the factions involved in the fighting. Farid, a professional artist, said he knew “many, many people” who died in the fighting. They included Fr Frans van der Lugt, 75, a Dutch Jesuit shot twice in the head in 2014 by assassins after he refused to abandon the poor and homeless of the city.

Farid painted a montage of 16 images in tribute to Fr van der Lugt, a friend, and it now hangs in his home in Nuremberg, Germany, where he has lived since 2015.

Some critics have compared the works of Farid to those of Marc Chagall, the 20th century French modernist.

Farid refuses to identify with any particular category, however, but he accepts that he might have been inspired at an unconscious level by some of the works he has seen in the galleries of Europe.

Ultimately, he said, he paints in style in which he feels most comfortable but suggests that most of his works could be considered as realism but with “a touch of surrealist fantasy”.

This is evident in “Forgiveness in Ma’aloula”, one of the later paintings in the exhibition, which begins to point beyond the war to the hope of Syrian Christians for final peace and reconciliation.

It depicts an enormous figure of Christ standing astride two hills representing the ancient Syrian village where Aramaic, the language of Jesus, was still spoken. The hills form faces staring at each other.

Farid said that Jesus was depicted separating rival groups “but then bringing them together to reconcile them because these people, representing Islam and Christianity, belong together”.

Farid said he hoped that the people who saw his paintings would realise the extent to which many of the people of Syria have suffered because of the war.

“This exhibition is like a cry for help,” he said. “The Syrian people now are scattered all over the world, they are everywhere as refugees … they want to go back home and live in peace as they have always done.”

“Peace is within sight,” Farid said. “In Syria there is such a level of destruction and there have been so many atrocities that there is barely much else that can happen. The normal thing now is for people to come back to their senses, so peace is not very far away.

“I am hopeful that I will return to Syria and help to rebuild it,” he continued. “I am hopeful that there will be peace again in Syria.

“We just have to be left alone. We don’t need anyone to meddle in our affairs, any external interventions. We know how to live together.”

The exhibition, which also features drawings by Syrian children, will be shown from July 14-16 at the Orchard Café, beside Shrewsbury Cathedral.

 

 

(Photographs by Simon Caldwell)