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Blue Marists - Letter from Aleppo 24

11/12/2015: Syria

This morning it is cold in Aleppo, it is an icy, bitter cold and we are not able to have heating because of lack of fuel… We are completely deprived of electricity for more than 50 days. But at least the water which we severely rationed came back after an interruption of several weeks.  The only route or way that unites the city in the whole world has been reopened after being blocked for 13 days.  

Yesterday afternoon. A.H., a 9 year old boy came to our house.  It took him an hour to get here.  He is the 10th child of a family that has 12 children. He wanted some bread. His mother sent him to us so that we could give him some.  He ceaselessly repeated: “I hope not to return home with empty hands”.  He will not. He returned happy.  Like him many children live in a precarious situation: cold, hungry, threatened health, insecurity… 

On November 20 the whole world commemorated the International Day of the Rights of the Child.  The children of Aleppo, like many children of the world, suffer because of the atrocity of the war at a moment when the great of the world only seek their own interests.  What can we say? What to do? How to support so much and so many children in this situation of misery? How can we give these children a psychical, human and spiritual support that would allow them to live fully their Infancy? 

We have opted to guarantee a quality education, an education according to the purest Marist tradition, an education which, according to the desire of our Founder Saint Marcelin Champagnat, will assure the future “an honest citizen and a good believer”. 

In discussing, a young girl, a very active volunteer asked the following question: “Why am I losing the best years of my life?  Why am I not like the rest of the girls in the world?  Why do I not have the right to live fully my youth? Is this God’s will?  Why does he not answer our prayers and our pleas?  In spite of our trust in him we do not see the end of this tunnel…” 

What answer can I give her and to many other young persons? I listen to them, I support them, I try to seek to stutter words of trust and of faith.  This is not always easy. 

Our young people live anguished… They seek to leave… to get out of this hell without precedence… the parents come to ask for advice…  What can we say?    What answer can we give when the situation seems to be more threatening and of greater concern?  In the sky of Aleppo like in the sky of the whole of Syria, a land of peace and of civilization, the great powers are fighting… Men of all races and of every nation, of arms, of weapons, of airplanes… Our country has become a land and a sky of confrontation, of conflict.     

The parents are gravely tormented.  Many members of their families and many friends are already settled in another place, in another country, in another city in Syria.  What future awaits them? The friends ask me: “You, Brother, do you want to stay here, do you not want to get out, to go and live in another community, in another place, far away from this dramatic situation?” 

My response is very simple: “for us Blue Marists, to live in Aleppo is to accept the risk of waiting…, to wait for peace, to wait for the return of life; to wait for the birth of the civilization of love…  During this time of waiting, in this time of Advent, for us, everything is similar to the waiting of 2000 years ago.  A time of waiting filled with questions.  A day that then does not arrive; we dare to remain together until the end.   

It is true that many families around us abandon the place; they wander around, like the couple and their child of 2000 years ago.  They were travelling the ways of the world searching I do not know what country for security.  On the way they discover that the only guarantee that they had to live on was their faith in God”. 

To the young boy who asked me one day: “Brother, are we living the end of time”, I responded: “I hope that we will live the end of the time of hatred”. 

To speak about fear is to speak about Aleppo or of any city of Syria… To speak of fear is to speak about anguished men and women at every rising of the sun. 

We have opted to remain with the Syrian people who suffer, to serve them, and from them to witness the love of God, to be witnesses of light in a time of darkness, witnesses of peace in a time of violence without precedence. 

Our activities continue…  

The baskets with food are distributed every month without interruption.  On the occasion of different feasts (al adha and noel), we have also distributed shoes and clothing to all the adults and all the children of the families of whom we are in charge. Our project “drop of milk” continues: it consists in distributing to all children who are less than 10 years old, powdered milk or milk for babies. We respond positively to any petition for help for lodging.  Our project helps completely over 100 displaced families. 

Through our program of health assistance, we support several patients who come to us for medical treatment or for surgery.  The project “Civilians wounded in war” continues to save the life of various persons who were wounded by the fragments of the mortars, which daily fall in the zone of Aleppo. 

Our Formation Center, the M.I.T. which enjoys great success, has launched its new program for the next 2 months.  The 3 educational projects and of development: “I want to learn”, “learn to grow” and “Skill School” are about to finish the first semester with many activities that respond to the needs of the children or young adolescents. 

I would like to end my letter with these words from Abbot Pierre: 

I will continue to believe, even if the whole world loses hope,
I will continue loving, even if others are going to exude hatred.
I will continue to construct, even if others are destroying.
I will continue to speak about peace, even in the midst of a war.
I will continue to enlighten, even in the midst of darkness.
I will continue to sow, even if others step on the crops.
And I will continue to yell out, even if others keep quiet.
And I will draw smiles on the faces full of tears.
I will bring relief, when we will see pain.
And I will offer reasons for joy where there is only sadness.
I will invite to walk the one who decided to stop…
And I will extend my arms to those who feel tired”. 

Abbot Pierre

Wishing you a good journey toward Christmas 

With you, we choose life. 

_____________

For the Blue Marists, Br. Georges Sabe
December 9, 2015 

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