In Syria, the Salesians have been at the side of young people throughout these years marked by war and violence. "Living in a state of war is something that is not learned during initial formation. You learn it by living in these areas, day after day," says Fr Mounir Hanachi, Director of the Damascus community, composed of four priests from different backgrounds.
The oratory is attended by almost 1300 boys, most of whom have faced painful and difficult situations. They come together to share a journey of faith, but also simply to be together and share moments of leisure.
The Salesians also have another center in Kafroun, in the west of the country, which since 2009 they use as a home for holidays and school camps. The educational style is carried out by a group of Salesian Cooperators, mostly parents of the children, ready to welcome many families displaced by the war. In Kafroun, where the rebels have never arrived, the climate is decidedly quieter than in cities like Damascus or Aleppo, another place where the Salesians are present.
The oratory of Aleppo, even in time of war, has never stopped opening its doors to children. Here, a thousand young Christians, of different religious denominations, gather together for catechism, sport, summer activities and after-school activities, which in fact started during the war years. "When we realized that this war would last a long time, we felt it was our duty to look even more closely after the young children of Aleppo," says Fr Pier Jabloyan, Director of the Salesian house.
The situation in Lebanon is more relaxed, where the Salesians have been present for 65 years. The Salesian school of Al Fidar offers vocational training, helping young people to enter the world of work.
As regards El Hessoun, there is a church, a reception center and the oratory, where young people are involved in games and educational activities. "The main mission," explains the educator Hanan Kandalaft, "is not just to let the children play, but to bring them to safety. As Don Bosco used to say: the salvation of souls is the most important thing."