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Letter from Aleppo No 16 - 23 March 2014

04/04/2014: Syria

It is fine this morning in Aleppo. I woke up early. I have to check the community water tanks… The situation of water and electricity has distinctly improved these days…but they remain rationed: water comes to us every two days and electricity in installments of two or four hours. We have nothing to complain about…There is such misery around us that the rationing of water and electricity represents no great problem…The Aleppans have endured so much that each time a public service improves, even just a little, they rejoice. If you ask them : « How’s it going? » the first response is « NECHKOR ALLAH ! »  Thanks be to God !

Where does all this strength of endurance among the inhabitants of the city come from ??? Is it a Faith solidly anchored in their daily life, or is it the spirit of solidarity and mutual aid or is it a greatness of spirit which makes them see the misery of others and so say that things are going alright…

The city continues to be divided, separated and enclosed. The two parts are completely separated. To pass from one side to the other, 10 to 16 hours are sometimes required for a passage which in normal times would have taken a quarter of an hour…

And inside the part where we live, there are so many barricades, check points, that sometimes to go by car demands infinite patience... That’s normal ! It is necessary to check to avoid car bombs, to prevent   infiltration, to… to… One gets used to the war. It becomes an integral part of our life, our daily round…. But can one get used to the partitioning… the shooting, the bombardments… the snipers… the shell bursts… the mortars, the scenes of  destruction and death ? Can one accept our patrimony being wiped out ?

When the nuns of Maaloula were freed, it was, for an instant, a sign of hope…dialogue is possible, the negotiations could succeed… But at what cost, and who can help re-establish peace when refusal of the other and their exclusion predominate ?

The question of emigration remains the first question that many young people and parents ask themselves… How should one reply ? Who dares give advice ? Who possesses enough data to decide ? No one, no one… To stay, when one is afraid, when one is out of work, when one has lost a parent, when the horizon seems dark and especially when menace weighs down the hearts… or to leave, to where, how, why ? To leave to live abroad, to go leaving behind one’s land, culture, roots… 

Millions of people have left the country… They talk about the greatest humanitarian disaster on the planet… All this has repercussions on everyone and especially on the children :

In its report on the situation of children in Syria, entitled « In a state of siege – Three years of a devastating conflict for the children of Syria », UNICEF denounces the considerable damage caused to 5.5 millions children affected today by the conflict and demands an immediate halt to the violence and an increase of aid for these child victims.

UNICEF estimates at 2 million the number of children who need aid or psychological treatment.

« For the children of Syria, the last three years have been the longest in their lives. Do they have to endure another year of suffering ? », asks the director general of UNICEF, Anthony Lake.

The report warns that the future of 5.5 million children  in Syria or living as refugees in neighbouring countries is at stake while the violence, the collapse of health and education systems, intense psychological distress and the impact of the decline of the economy on the families combine to destry a whole generation.

If this picture is quite dark, it is because it forgets there are some points of light…

The Marists continue to believe, despite everything, that education is the principal tool for constructing man and making him an agent of peace…

Our founder Saint Marcellin Champagnat used to say: « Educate the children so that they become virtuous citizens and good Christians… ». Adapting this to our situation, I would say «  to make of them virtuous citizens and good believers ». By being inspired by this, we continue with much courage and faith, to offer  different educational programmes to children, adolescents and adults without any distinction.

The youngsters of the « Skill School » project celebrated Mothers’ Day, a feast celebrated in the east on  21 March, with the theme » « Give me your hand »… A hand tender, welcoming, a hand which loves and forgives, which encourages and shows the way…

The children of the « I learn » project celebrated that feast with their mothers, they expressed their love to their most dear being.

In the Arab world, Mothers’ Day coincides with the beginning of Spring. A word which has lost its colours and its promise and which resonates in the hearts of millions of people : war, unemployment, destruction, death, blood, destabilisation…

We chose to take advantage of the beginning of Spring to anchor our choice for peace and the mutual respect of the different cultures.  This is an essential value…. Brother Emili Turu, Superior General, asked me to share this experience with you… 

To open the doors, go out to meet the other, invite him to your home, sit down around the same table, listen to him, speak to him, share together our common values, accept that our faith in God is a road that unites us and does not separate us, share the same commitment to build a more just world, establish the basis for a peace that does not exclude the other, create networks of peacemakers… To share with them our charism as a way towards a humanity without frontiers.

The different training sessions of the « M.I.T. » project go along the same line. 3 sessions  of formation around the following themes : « Education, treasure for humanity », «How to resolve problems and take decisions» « Kaizen or improvement continues ».

In the same way, three conferences have presented « Positive manipulation » and « Love in 3dimensions 3D »…

The 30 women of the « TAWASOL » project are preparing for Easter a display of their works on different artistic and manual topics.

The young scouts were able to profit from some holidays to hold their winter camp, on the premises… these camps end with a day of sharing with the parents…

Considering the development in the distribution of the food baskets (we are getting more and more requests from families to come to their aid), we have arranged a corner to make a supplementary depot which has just been added to the many places where we store food supplies, clothing, hygiene material, mattresses and blankets, everything that can help the displaced families). A good team is at their service…

In climbing towards Easter, we hope that the way of the cross we are in process of living may end with the fifteenth station : the resurrection…

To all of you our friends and benefactors, to the whole Marist world, we wish you a good ascent towards Easter…


Aleppo 23 March 2014
For the Marist Blues, Br Georges Sabe

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