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The Marist Blues – Aleppo

09/11/2012: Syria - Photo gallery

This morning, I put on my Facebook page a word of congratulation to all my Moslem friends who are celebrating today the great feast, Eid AL ADHA. This is the feast commemorating the sacrifice of Abraham. It is a feast common to the three monotheistic religions. I said: «  This morning’s sun announces to us the feast of AL ADHA. May this feast be mercy for believers and peace for our land ». In fact, this morning, we were expecting a cease-fire but in vain… The fighting lessened in intensity but did not stop.  Moreover, certain quarters, spared up to now, have been invaded by the rebels, one a quarter with a Kurdish majority and affecting a Christian quarter. This was, once more, an occasion for some to be displaced, to go looking for a safer quarter. To speak about the situation in Aleppo, is to speak about a war which daily brings us its flux of dead, destruction, fear and above all senselessness.

But it is also to speak about the many witnesses of solidarity activities with the people suffering from this war.

We, the Marist Blues, have lived this month intensely, with new projects which have come to enrich our mission.

1-      I want to learn : This educational project, for the literacy of children and some  adults, all displaced and accomodated in the 4 schools we are involved in, has taken shape.  It involves helping children of any age to read and write : some with some letters and numbers, others with a little more : grammar, conjugations, etc.. I cannot forget that man in his forties spelling the words. With the words it was pronouncing, his mouth proclaimed his joy of being freed from illiteracy. He wanted the whole world to know that he had read some words… What to say of the children ? They are proud, they take to the pen, the exercise book, they come and show us : « I have written A, B, C... ; I know how to add 3+5= 8… »  The child condemned to make shoes becomes suddenly a student like all the children in the world who have a right to education…   Seeing the lack of space (all the classrooms are occupied by several families), parents have not hesitated to offer the room in which they live : « Come, we can arrange things so that the 15 children can study ».  Solidarity, sharing, is not a spontaneous gesture, it is an acquired attitude, showing a way that goes far beyond the war, far beyond individualism…  For these children and adults, we have not hesitated to commit ourselves, to give our time. We are not all born educators or teachers, but our goodwill and the enthusiasm of the children and parents will cause this project to go ahead and succeed.

2-      The « DAFA » campaign : on the approach of winter, we launched the « DAFA » (which means warmth) campaign…  there too generosity has not been lacking… I take the opportunity to say thank you to all the friends who are supporting us. What have we done ? As the AL ADHA feast approached, we committed ourselves to buying a new garment for each displaced person… Exacting work : verify our  lists, visit the 150 families to take measurements of everyone, spend several hours at the market, buying, looking for the best, bargaining, making friends, listening to the complaints of the young traders spreading their products out on the footpaths. Youssef is already a friend, he has our telephone number… he calls us… Alat, another… Mohamed, a third (when we told him we were buying for the displaced lodged in the schools, he told us : I am displaced but I am living in a public garden). Another merchant added 4 or 5 pairs of new trousers without saying anything… He had got a good price but it was a present for the displaced... The market, a whole history of relations… Unfortunately, since yesterday this market has become a field for the battles always raging… Where are Youssef, Alat, Mohamed and so many other welcoming faces ? We miss you so... You represent our east, our dear east, our land, our tradition, our culture, our everyday life…  Once the clothes are bought, the bags full of our kindness before they are filled with clothers… Thank you Leyla, Margot for all the care you have put into not forgetting anyone, for making sure each piece goes to the right person… « For this one, this jersey is right, for this youth this tracksuit, for this child, this size »… What care, what attention, what tact ! the same tact in visiting each family in the classroom where it is living and delivering the bag while wishing it a good feastday. It took no more than 5 minutes for the children to put on their new clothes ! One of the schools organised a feast, the children wanted to express their gratitude, the  parents too … Astonishment of a love, a relationship being forged… They are no longer «  the children », they are : « Zeinab, Sabrine, Zaki,  Haidar… » The « DAFA » campaign is still in its beginnings : The Syrian Red Crescent has obtained blankets for us, we need more, we need to put plastic over the windows, we want to install water heaters for the baths... and if possible more jerseys and warm clothes !

3-      The feast of AL ADHA : during this feast, tradition has it that sheep are offered in sacrifice … and the meat distributed to the poor and needy… We proposed to consecrate 100 kilos of meat for a festal meal…  Some did not stop telling us: for months now we have not tasted meat… Monday 29 October, the Marist Blues offered the meal : « Lahm Ajin » an oriental pizza with meat and vegetables… « Tfadalou »… « Please come»… The table is set for the feast…  We will share the table and the feast… We will celebrate the hope above everything and despite everything... For some of the displaced, the feast was no feast… They wept for a relative or a friend killed or taken away… They wept for a house  abandoned or destroyed, they wept for a job and a future… In Arabic, the greeting for the feast is « Kel sane wa entou bkheir », that is « May you enjoy good health every year».  But some say: « Inchallah, next year we will be back in our homes », and others repeat «  May Syria be at peace ! »

Can hope disappear ? Can one live without a spark of hope ? A question adressed to each of us.  How not to mention on this occasion so many words of gratitude ?  Wadah, father of a family, 4 children, his pregnant wife expecting the 5th in a few months. Wadah is the driver of a Suzuki, a little van for   transporting  merchandise… Wadah of the blue eyes who seemed at first so « fanatical »… insisted that we go back to the room where he was living… We entered… He confided : « We cannot forget what you are doing for us. But listen : If by misfortune, something happens to you, I have a little cellar, a workshop where I work, I offer it to you, you can stay there… » Wadah, my friend, your heart is much bigger than your workshop, we know well that you keep us there… Know well that you have transformed our outlook and our prejudices…You  have caused the barriers which separate men to fall… Thank you,  Wadah… 

The feast for « HAMOUDÉ ». Hamoudé is a child of 10. His feet are deformed… He is very beautiful, very clean, always smiling, but he cannot walk properly, he suffers, he needs some appliance ! When we met him, he dreamed of having a ball, but he could not play, he could not run, he was not like the other children !

We did not want « Hamoudé » to spend this feast like all feasts, we wanted to mark this one with a very fine present… An appliance which helps him walk almost normally, to wear espadrilles… Hamoudé had his last rendez-vous with the orthopedic technician yesterday … Unfortunately, yesterday’s developments prevented it, but « Hamoudé » went to sleep clutching the plastic bag which held the special socks and the red sandals he was waiting for and dreaming that tomorrow he would walk quite differently…

Inchallah, « Hamoudé »…In spite of everything, don’t lose hope! It will always vanquish  fatalism…

4-      The young volunteers : These last days, we were beginning to lack volunteers… Certain had left the country, others were sitting their university exams, and the parents of others did not want their children going to a high risk quarter… And behold, heaven sends us many young people with many qualities… We were all Christians… we lacked that other dimension … Moslem fellow citizens who would agree to join the Marist Blues…  And there they are among us : « Dalia, Amer, Moustapha and so many others…  They are a gift from heaven…

5-      Medical care : I cannot omit the importance of the medical side…  The daily rendez- vous … the sick who attend… Nabil, Dany and Maher, listen, sound their chests, diagnose, prescribe, give medication and soothe the pain of children young people and adults…  This service is very much appreciated by the displaced lodged in the schools but also by many of the people of the quarter… One talks about « Doctors without frontiers » ; although our doctors do not belong to that NGO, they are doctors without barriers, without frontiers, and without exclusions… 

As you already know, we have launched the « Basket of the Mountain » project…  A project  to help  300 Christian families of the quarter of Djabal al Sayde… We are in process of preparing the 3rd monthly  distribution of foodstuffs…

 Let me cut off … the canon sound strongly outside… The cease-fire falls in the water and, with it, does the hope of peace soon fall too? When you read this text, many other events will have come to fill our daily lives, we pray that our hope does not weaken…

I return to the « Basket of the Mountain » which represents a substantial aid to all these families… One of the qualities of this project is that it is « ONE ». Jesus prayed for us to be « ONE »  as He and the Father are. I am not speaking of an ecumenical project but of a « ONE » project. A model of Church, One. A model of Church mission « One ». A model of commitment  « One »…

I have been a bit long, I beg you to excuse me. As the time is long for the displaced who dream of returning to their homes and for all Syrians who are waiting for this nightmare to end.

__________________
26 October 2012
Br Georges SABE - On behalf of the Marist Blues
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