Syria – Voices of hope from Aleppo: "There are signs of God that appear even when everything around seems to be in darkness"

10 February 2023

(ANS - Aleppo) - In force since the outbreak of the conflict 12 years ago, the international sanctions against the Syrian government severely limit the access and circulation of the country's material and financial resources. Here lies the paradox that the Salesians of Syria highlight in this dramatic moment following the earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria; international solidarity has mobilized, but does not always find the way to reach the ultimate recipients. This situation, however, brings out the ability of the Syrians to provide for themselves, at least in the first instance, for the current emergency.

"The animators spent all day and night welcoming frightened children and standing by their side," testified Zeina Chahoud, a civil engineer, who acts as an animator at the Salesian oratory in Aleppo. "No one spoke of anything other than the earthquake, sharing their fears, but staying with the Salesians was an umbrella of comfort and hope for everyone present."

"Immediately after the earthquake, I was called from the hospital to provide first aid," said another animator of the Salesian oratory in Aleppo, the surgeon Cezar Ward. "I don't know what to say. I'm tired and confused after many hours of welcoming earthquake victims and treating them, trying to comfort and reassure everyone who arrived, and at the same time feeling that the scene was breaking my heart. We’ve seen so many people arrive and accumulate in the emergency room, cases we considered hopeless for many reasons, such as a man who jumped from the sixth floor and came out almost unharmed, or another person crushed by a stone and still able to walk. A year-and-a-half-year-old girl had been under the rubble all morning, but they managed to get her out unharmed. There are signs of God that manifest themselves even when everything around seems to be in darkness."

"A collection of goods was made among the people of Damascus to support compatriots in Aleppo. Our house has collected the gifts and, as usual, those who have the least have given the most," testified Fr. Alejandro León, Superior of the Middle East Province (MOR). Food, medicines, clothes, and blankets "are a sign that warms the heart and a source of hope," he adds.

Economic aid is also flowing in from the Syrian diaspora, which, entrusted to those who do not improvise as last-minute rescuers, may translate into the purchase of basic necessities for the new wave of displaced people that will arise in the coming days.

The Salesians are present in the capital, in Damascus (4 confreres), and in Aleppo (5 confreres); a decision is being made on the possibility of using the house in Kafroun, where the summer camps of the Salesian Youth Movement are held, but access is difficult since it is a mountainous area (550 meters above sea level) with roads that are not easily crossed, especially in the current weather conditions.

In any case, international Salesian solidarity has certainly not been slow to act. Fr. Daniel Antúnez, Head of the Salesian Mission Office in Turin, says: "'Don Bosco Missions' has ongoing relations with the Salesians of Syria and follows from within, we can say, the evolution of the situation. We are ready to intervene with the aid that will be required. Our task now is to accompany families to recompose themselves, to survive in the short term in a condition of lacking their own means of subsistence. When international emotion starts to wane – we’re seeing it for Ukraine – we’ll be there to start up again with young people and their families."


ANS - “Agenzia iNfo Salesiana” is a on-line almost daily publication, the communication agency of the Salesian Congregation enrolled in the Press Register of the Tibunal of Rome as n 153/2007.

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