|RMG – Peace for Syria|
|RMG – What is going to happen? The confused situation in Syria|
(ANS – Aleppo) – Clashes between rebels and government forces are taking place in several parts of Aleppo and throughout Syria, but in many places life goes on in apparent normality, apart from the tension. Salesians stationed in Aleppo are persevering in their work of animation and education, made even more necessary by the fear which is in the air.
‘Not all of Syria is living through conflict, but all of Syria is aware of it.’ This summarises the present situation in the country. In Aleppo conflict is taking place, hour by hour, in some areas of the city; in other parts life seems to continue normally. The situation is constantly changing.
New problems arise from those trying to profit from the chaos, for material or political reasons. Groups of criminals are appearing, stealing cars and kidnapping people for ransom … On the religious front, it could be said that in Syria there was always harmony between Christians, Muslims and other groups. Now there is a tide of new attitudes, foreign, fundamentalist, which are creating unrest among the people. There is an international ‘game’ which seeks to use religion as a source of conflict, but this is not the case! Until now Christians have received respect and good will from all.
In this context, Salesians are continuing to work as usual, devoting themselves according to their special charism to the young. And both the children and the displaced people they are helping are grateful for this. ‘Our Salesian Communities in Syria (Aleppo, Damascus, Kafroun, are doing fairly well, and activities were going on quite well, but for the last three weeks they have had to interrupt all activities, because of the gravity of the situation, especially in Damascus and Aleppo. At Kafroun, in the mountains, activities are still open for children in the area and for displaced people.’ This report was given by the Provincial of the Middle East, Fr Munir El Rai, in a statement released a few days ago.
Up to a few weeks ago the oratory in Aleppo was frequented by more than 400 children; summer activities were going very well, using a booklet on the theme of adventure and getting to know Don Bosco. Then, two weeks ago, these activities were cancelled to concentrate on the refugees. Many had to leave Homs, both Christian and Muslim. With the outbreak of clashes in the city of Aleppo, displaced people began to arrive from neighbouring villages.
The entire Christian community is devoting itself to the refugees, including many groups and religious orders, including the Jesuits. The Salesians have chosen to engage in support and offer recreation and teaching for the children. Books have been obtained and brought to schools where the refugees are gathering, about 45 buildings spread around the city. Benefactors are donating food, while the Salesians are offering support and entertainment for the little ones. Four or five groups of young volunteers have been organized to go to the schools, other groups are being trained to expand the scope of the work. Salesian Cooperators and other lay people are working alongside the Salesians in Aleppo.
Salesians have been in Aleppo since 1948, when the first technical school was opened and then nationalised in 1967. Later the Congregation opted to strengthen its presence among the young and in 1980 oratories and youth centres were re-opened.