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Aleppo - Letter of 3 February

23/02/2013: Syria - Photo gallery

Friday 1 February 2013. It is midday. Gunfire continues to occupy a good place in our everyday life. Aleppo lived the month of January in the most dramatic of situations, especially on the human level : the rarity and rise in price of supplies essential to everyday life or survival : bread, medicines, fuel, petrol, electricity etc.

The human dramas with which we, « the Marist Blues », are daily confronted are terrible. The displaced grow in number and need. The little people, poor and miserable, without resources and without work, come to us begging to help them find a little work. Many have set up a « Basta », a little stall out in the street to sell anything at all : biscuits, cigarettes, fruit and vegetables, etc. Elias, for example, has as capital 2,000 Syrian pounds (20 euros). He and his son Hanna (7 years old), are there all day in front of the « Basta » to sell biscuits, at 5 Syrian pounds a packet. Hassan, father of a family, displaced, without work, spends all night in front of the bakery in order to buy a few kilos of bread which he will resell at a slightly higher price. This little enterprise will allow him to supply the basic needs of the 7 members of his family.

I think of the children selling petrol, and this adolescent girl who has set herself up in a street used by thousands of pedestrians. Her hands serve as her stall ; she has there a packet of biscuits she is selling.

I think of the youth… There are those who have left the country, with or without their parents, but there are also all those who have stayed : the university students who want to finish their studies in order to plan a future, and those who are without work. So, what words of hope can help them continue on their way ? sometimes, there is only silence and listening…

These same young people have been shocked by the attack made on the University of Aleppo on the first day of the term exams and which caused the deaths of so many students who, in the face of all opposition, are clinging on to an uncertain future.

The city is becoming more and more a city of ghosts. After 4 pm, without electricity and with few passersby, the city is abandoned to itself, to fighting, to various barrages… One would say a city abandoned to its fate, its « Maktoub ».

Aleppo is more and more isolated and asphyxiated. The international airport remains closed. The unique possibility of travel is the land route with all that that represents as danger for the life of the travellers. For these travellers and their families, the day of travel is a day of anguish and uncertainty. Especially on the stretch closest to Aleppo where the telecommunications have been cut and the roadblocks of the different  factions are multiplying.

Against this dark background of Aleppo’s reality, we continue our action of solidarity :

We have increased the weekly portion of essential everday food supplies for the displaced families and have added wood for heating. In fact, the cold of January 2013 was so biting that the displaced were burning anything they could lay their hands on to warm themselves : cardboard, plastic, wood, rags, old clothes, sometimes at the risk of asphyxia. Under the same  conditions, the children cling to life. They took the opportunity of a day of snow to express their joy and love of play in making their snowmen ! And in the light of candles, they have been assiduous to the study hours our volunteers assure them.

Some of the young people displaced are preparing for their official exams for the school leaving certificate and the diploma. This was for us an opportunity to enroll them in fee paying private courses not far from the lodging centres where they are.

To the monthly distribution of the « Mountain Basket » (300 families take advantage of it), we added for Christmas some cheese and meat. And we were able to distribute, to the great happiness of all the families, bottles of gas for cooking and heating water.

And today,3 February 2013, was a very special day. A day of meeting and festivity. A day of sharing and listening. A day of distribution and joy. The media did not come to film and document the event. The TV will not mention it either. But it was a significant day and event for more than 370 families. Very full and heavy parcels... All these families have also received a special help to obtain heating for themselves… But above all, the warmth of the welcome, the meeting, the sharing. One takes one’s time, talks, says a word, leaves a trace… Somewhere, in the open street or in the basement, one does not do charity. We, the Marist Blues, we are in solidarity. But the  Marist Blues are not only the residents in Aleppo but a whole network of friends, laity and brothers, whether born in Aleppo or not, all engaged in the same spirit of simplicity and audacity to go to a new land, the land of the other, the most deprived, the most poor, the unemployed, the desperate, the worried, the sad…

So then this evening, Mary, our Good Mother, I confide to you all these faces, all these hands and hearts, all those who form war’s other face. A face of love and hope. I confide them to you, name by name, face by face,  person by person… In following in your steps, O Mary, we continue the journey, hastening to bring more light into the dark night of the everyday lives of all these families. I confide to you also the displaced, those families we will meet tomorrow and who are expecting us, not simply for the weekly distribution but for all that this distribution represents of solidarity beyond every frontier.

Mary, for each of the benefactors and the volunteers, for all these hearts that know no bounds, I say to you THANK YOU.

Br Georges Sabe,fms - For the « Marist Blues »

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