Sri Lanka: St. Joseph's Boys' College, Nugegoda
St. Alphonsus Liguori
1988: Marist work began in Equatorial Guinea
28/07/2012: Syria - Photo gallery
It is 11.00 pm on Thursday 26 July 2012. Here in Aleppo, it was more than 40 degrees during the day.In the distance, I hear the firing. I am in my room in the community. Brothers Georges Hakim and Bahjat Azrie are also at home. In fact, we returned together around 9.00 pm after an unforgettable day for the Marist Blues.
If you see our photos, you will see the young and not so young in blue T-shirts. You remember what the local people called the first Little Brothers of Mary ? Well, we wanted to place this solidarity campaign under the title of « Marist Blue » (https://www.facebook.com/MaristesAlep)
Aleppo, our city, second city of the country, financial capital, major centre of commerce and craft industry, is in its death throes. It has been suffocated for more than a week. The war is in train of spreading into the neighbourhoods. The people flee, become refugees, wander, take shelter in the streets, the public gardens, the schools, everywhere. The inhabitants take in their relatives, the houses are open…Bread is lacking, electricity is lacking, fuel is lacking, milk is lacking, medicines are lacking ; the only thing not lacking is the spectre of war. It is on the prowl, it is everywhere. A nauseous smell rises from the streets …
The city is completely encircled. There is risk of being taken away or killed. The people are afraid… A fear which depresses, which paralyses, which kills… So the question is posed : what do we do ? Flee, as so many families have done? Stay in place paralysed ? Act ? What to do?
At the beginning, we chose to continue all our activities. We launched holiday camp projects, and educational activies… But all discretely, we realized the danger was enormous, and that it would be necessary to halt. This was last Tuesday’s decision :« Halt our activities ».
But stopping our activities does not mean stopping our mission. It is rather to search together, laity and brothers, for some response to give to the emergency. The call of the last General Chapter urged us to go out to the displaced persons. In the quarter of Jabal el Saydeh, a quarter where we have been working for more than 25 years among the most poor, we found people still poorer… The displaced! So to them we hurried, to the children, the women, the men… the young people responded generously. And it was there we spent our first day.
They welcomed us, the children came out of the holes where they had hidden. A crowd… a mass. A balloon excited them … They played, sang, danced… each of them is a history, a sacred history which is revealed to us. A little girl who shares her sadness at being an orphan… A boy who offers at the very first a pencil to an animator, « Habaytak » he says to him, I liked you… A girl is quite sweetly transformed thanks to a hand which does not let her go… She dares to take her hands down from blocking her ears. She skips, she smiles… The « sheikh » (Imam), comes to thank us… Someone asks, « You are Christians? » An old man comes up to me to embrace me and say to me « Choukran ». I don not know him, I do not know his name, I do not know why he has thanked me,but even so, the gesture is made, apact of love and trust is signed… The women listen to the women. What dignity ! There is no complaining. One thanks « Allah ». But what a living Gospel we are- we are in train of living!
One question is often asked : « You are going to leave, are you going to come back ? And a trust is established. The children accompany us to midday, when we leave them. They sing around us as if to tell us « Stay, we love you »! And at 5 o’clock when we come back, they are already there, and the celebrations continue, dancing, games, smiles, joy !!!
But the needs are pressing. More elementary needs. In this month of Ramadan, the month of fasting, for our Moslem brothers, the needs are enormous : pediatricians, doctors, medicines, milk, beds, sanitary napkins, soap, detergents, matresses, clothing, food…
They have been distributed in two schools, 900 persons crammed in. The flow does not stop growing. Some families (2000 persons) are set up in the public garden. They endure the heat but do not want to be shut in. Perhaps, they dream of waking up in the morning and going back to their homes… and yet today this dream appears remote, without any hope of being realised in the near future, if a home still exists for them…
And those are a drop in a sea of displaced, homeless, stranded... but for us, they are names : Zeinab, Moustapha, Ali, etc... They have a face, they are a history, they are a look, a poem… For them and because of them, we take risks…
Yes, we risk our lives. Certain young people do not have the support of their parents. Certain benefactors have organised their home to dare a gesture ! All of us know the great risk of working when the weapons keep on firing.
But the single smile of a child– isn’t that enough to dispel all our fears ?
Br Georges Sabé