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Letter from Aleppo No 20

17/12/2014: Syria

It is Sunday 14 December 2014. This morning, we did not go to Mass at the St Louis Hospital as usual. We will go to the 5.00 pm Mass of the Catholic Armenians in the Barbara quarter. It is being celebrated in memory of young Soubhi, 28, killed last week.

 

The rendez-vous of violence

Soubhi is a young man we have known since a boy. He was a scout of the Djabal el Saydé Champagnat group. At one time, he was leader of this group. He was also one of the young volunteers of the Marist Blues. And also, he was very active in his own quarter. When it was invaded by the rebels and he found himself a refugee in his own city, Soubhi, a smith by trade, began to wander in search of work, employment, something to help his familyFar from Aleppo, in Kfarbo, a Christian village near the town of Hama, he tried to settle down and work, because he said : " It’s time I married and set up a family". Unfortunately, death had  a rendez-vous of violence with him.

Soubhi is one of the numerous young men killed by the violence so many lost dreams… and  with them, so many ruined hopes.

This death is so close! Shells, stray bullets, so many infernal machines striving furiously to destroy man and stone, destroy culture and civilisation.

How many bullets we have collected in the yard at our place, where the children play. Sometimes, it is by a miracle that we are not wounded.

 

The quarters which continue to empty

The same violence creates in many people the feeling they have to leave their quarter. The have the daily experience of bombardment. It results in material damage (to windows, furniture, vehicles, and sometimes part of a wall struck) and psychological… So entire families are forced to leave their homes to go elsewhere, to a safer quarter very gradually, the building empties, the street empties and one discovers as a result that the quarter has been deserted Fayrouz sings "Wainon", "Where are they? » And I dare to add, will anyone stay?

I think of the parents of Giorgio, that child killed last year in the garden of his own house by a  mortar burst. They had decided after his death not to leave their house and to stay there in order to preserve the memory of their child. Two months ago, they left they have gone to another quarter…

Leaving one’s home means having to rent elsewhere, but the rents have become very dear and the people lack the resources.

 

The high cost of living

By simply remaining in Aleppo, the people also have to pay other tributes: a fee to the networks of electric generators, the gas which is distributed sparingly, petrol and heating  fuel in short supply Another threat is on the way and will have very serious consequences on the daily life of the people: the multiple international organisations are in process of enormously reducing their aid to the Syrian population…this aid is essential: especially as regards basic food supplies

 

The threat

Over and above all that, we are threatened His Holiness, Pope Francis, in his allocution to the displaced Christians of Iraq, said it clearly:the Christians are chased from the Middle East, in suffering…..It seems that Christians are not wanted there, but you, you witness Christ.

I think of the wounds, the sorrows of mothers with their children, the elderly persons and the displaced persons, of the wounds of those who are victims of all sorts of violence.

 

The hemorrhage

Many young people and families are leaving the country by any means possible… In alluding to the massive departure of Christians, an episcopal vicar told me yesterday: "For two months, I have been spending my time signing baptism certificates in Arabic, in French, in English and in other languages. This certificate will be added to other documents when the people go and present themselves at the offices of the consulates"…

 

The wager for life

Before this crippling reality, we, the Marist Blues, have chosen to live, to serve, to give ourselves, to commit ourselves to the service of the man most bruised, most wounded, most affected by the war

 

The service of listening

These last months, I have spent much time listening to people, their sufferings, their despair, their willingness to leave, their tiredness… The people have such need of being listened to and helped… they lose confidence in a future, near, of peace… Moreover, the Syrian president said in his statement to Paris Match: "No one can yet see when this war will end".

I am not the only one In the team of the Marist Blues, we daily share our experience of listening... Sometimes there are experiences so sad that they cannot be described

 

The service of home visits

A team of volunteers is making home visits : that may be a school classroom, a basement, a house in a very dangerous quarter, a settlement inhabitable, a tent in a public garden, an apartment without any wall and so many other "homes"

These visits allow us to be close to the people. They ask us for them. They consider it an honour to be visited, to be recognized in the situation in which they find themselves. And for us it is an opportunity not simply to speculate but to touch the misery

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Towards Christmas

These days now, all our projects tend towards Christmas The distribution of food baskets or the different education or development projects will stop around 23 December.

We will resume after the New Year.

 

GOD IS CAPABLE OF EVERYTHING

By means of this letter, I would like to thank all our volunteers and benefactors, all the Marist Blues. With them, and thanks to their extraordinary effort, their devotion, their commitment to live in simplicity and love, thanks to their sensitivity to be attentive to the most destitute, we have been able to sustain 600 families, educate several hundred young people, treat many hundreds of civilian war wounded and save dozens, and animate so many development and training activities.

God is capable of everything Such was the comment of a lady to whom I had just delivered medication indispensible for the survival of her son.

In borrowing those same words, I wish that the Lord of Peace and Love help us discover new  paths, paths of hope and the gift of self.

Happy Christmas

________________

Aleppo 14 December 2014
Br Georges Sabe, for the Marist Blues

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