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Letter from Aleppo No 11

18/06/2013: Syria

“Mummy, when are we going back home? » Fouad, the little 4 year old asks his mother this question, just before saying good night… And Lina, the mother, will spend the whole night crying and asking the same question.

class=imgshadowBut to whom to ask this question ? Who can or dare give an answer ? Who can propose a date? Yet among the refugees, the rumours circulate quickly and in vain. « We were told in two days… We were told a week… Soon… ». A soon which becomes a month then another month and who knows how much more?

In accompanying the displaced families, we « Marist Blues » do not stop listening with our hearts to their complaints, their worries, their sufferings…

And we have no response other than compassion… We are present… We listen… We try to make their daily life as acceptable as possible…  We are at their disposal…

At the  moment I am writing, it is already two months since the families have left their houses in the « Djabal el Sayde » quarter…

class=imgshadowThe 300 families we support with the mountain basket (Sallet el jabal) are dispersed in the city… Some lodge with the Marists, others with relatives … and some go from one house to another… I am thinking in particular of a family of 7 persons who have not always found a house for all to stay together… : the father sleeps in one place, the mother with some children with a relative, the aunt with other children somewhere else… The war is not simply a matter of bombs, of shootings… It is a machine which destroys the person and the family… It isolates, separates, creates no bonds.

Aleppo wakes up and goes to sleep to the accompaniment of bursts of fire, columns of smoke, so many signs which say that the war is there, quite close, a step or two away…

class=imgshadowOn the security level, the past month was marked by the abduction of two  Orthodox bishops who were travelling to negotiate the release of two priests kidnapped around 3 months ago. 40 days later, we still have no news of them. The kidnappings create a situation of fear and anguish among many who see themselves forced to flee the country…

During the Angelus on 2 June 2013, Pope Francis expressed his « deep concern » for the Syrian conflict and for the victims taken in hostage. He appealed to « the humanity of the abductors » to free the kidnapped  persons.

On the economic plane, purchasing power does not stop falling. Prices rocket and are multiplied by two or 3. Food supplies and basic necessities are inaccessible to many people. Those with salaries find that their income has lost value enormously. A kilo of bread has passed in a few months from 15 Syrian pounds to 90 and sometimes 100 pounds.

Electricity is severely rationed : 2 to 4 hours a day. Water is assured for the time being. Petrol, gas and domestic oil are rare and very expensive. Certain medicines are becoming rare. A hepatitis epidemic is spreading. And with summer approaching, there is fear of the appearance of some sicknesses like cholera or leishmania.

The people are resigned… 

The families living with the Marists still benefit from the hospitality and necessary medical and psychological care. We feel that after two months of displacement, the needs of security and hope for the future are enormous. To these 80 persons has been added a group of young girls studying for the Baccalauréat (official exam at the end of secondary school). Effectively, these girls come from a quarter where it is not possible to take the exams. We have taken them in and offer them lodging, meals and the best conditions for preparing well for and sitting the exams.

class=imgshadowThe 300 families displaced from Djabal el Saydeh have received this month 3 substantial aids : A hygiene kit, clothing and shoes and the food basket.

In addition, we have distributed a substantial food basket to 75 families  we have been supporting for a long time.

Every Monday, a dozen displaced families living in the schools of Djabal el Sayde,  and dispersed in the city, come to receive food and hygienic supplies adapted to their needs. They are grateful especially for the milk and the nappies...

The Marist Blues are preparing summer activities for 50 adolescents. This is a programme of « SKILL SCHOOL » activities, allowing the young people to discover themselves and develop their skills.  A Brother and some youth animate this project.

class=imgshadowThose in charge of « Learn to Grow » plan to continue their activity throughout the summer.  40 children of pre-school age, take part in this project.

I end with the words of the Pope at the Angelus of 2 June.

« This tormented war situation brings with it tragic consequences : death, destruction, considerable economic and environmental damage, but also the plague of abductions », he continued, appealing « to the humanity of the abductors so that they free their victims ».

Assuring them of his « prayer » and his « solidarity » for the persons abducted and their near ones, he encouraged the crowd to « keep on praying for our beloved Syria », where the population « aspires to peace in   justice and understanding ».

The Pope finished on a positive note : « There are so many situations of conflict in the world, but there are also so many signs of hope ».

We Marist  Blues wish to be, by our actions, one of these signs.

_______________
Br Georges SABE, on behalf of the Marist Blues
7 June 2013
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