Syria – Salesians in the country: hope in the midst of difficulties for the little ones and their families

05 January 2024

(ANS – Aleppo) – Syria continues to be a country at war and with growing difficulties. Almost 13 years after the start of the war and 11 months after the earthquake that hit Aleppo, the devaluation of the currency has increased poverty, unemployment and despair. However, the Salesians continue to offer light in the midst of difficulties, especially to the youngest, and peaceful places to make them dream of a better future.

The Salesians in Syria take care of more than 3,500 children and young people in their presences in Aleppo, Damascus and Kafroun. "In October we started the new pastoral year and winter activities, and in Aleppo alone we have more than 1,500 children. They participate in oratory, formation and catechesis activities, "says Mateo Colmenares, a volunteer in Aleppo. In Damascus, there are 1,600 children and youth activities in Damascus and 400 in Kafroun.

Thirteen years after the beginning of the war, the Salesians continue to support the population. "We continue to provide school reinforcement to 100 boys and girls because Catholic schools are private and not accessible to families. Most of the children attend public schools that are Muslim...", explain the missionaries.

The Salesians are a sign of hope and peace for the population. "They are giving all possible economic aid: vouchers for solar panels for families, food, reconstruction after the earthquake... everything possible to help these people," continues Colmenares.

Syria is undergoing a severe economic devaluation. The Syrian lira has devalued by more than 100% in the last year, salaries are not enough to buy the basics to live and even houses do not have electricity. Life is very difficult for the population and that is why young people only think about looking for future opportunities in other countries.

“We're bringing some light into times of darkness and difficulty. Salesians never stop supporting young people despite very complicated situations, and together we try to open up new perspectives for action to reach more and more people", continues the Salesian volunteer.

However, the war does not disappear from the reality of the Syrian population, and the conflict in Gaza is also perceptible in everyday life. “It's like putting salt on wounds. People don't talk about it, but everyone is afraid" explains one Salesian.

In the early days, with the oratory full of children, you could see bursts of gunfire streak across the sky like ants. “Younger children were crying and scared. The middle-aged ones, who lived through the end of the war, laughed and applauded, and the older ones, aged 16-17, who remember the worst part of the war, went about their normal lives and didn't notice anything. When these things happen, we begin the Hail Marys, saying the rosary in the courtyard, because in the oratory there are no alarm sirens, and because we have nowhere to put everyone "adds Colmenares.

Young people feel happy and at home in Salesian youth centres in Syria. However, they also express weariness with war, a weariness full of suffering when they hear bombs and gunshots. "How long will it go on, why is this still happening?” they wonder. The reality is that "we see places that are recovering, but others are still abandoned. The same scenario that television shows in Gaza we see here in Aleppo, with everything destroyed by war and earthquake."

For this reason, at the beginning of this year, from Syria they are asking "for an end to the violence and for help from Salesian solidarity from all over the world to continue accompanying the victims of the earthquake and war."


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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