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A city suffering from thirst

 

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Letter from Aleppo No 18 (7 July 2014)

11/07/2014: Syria

Since 2 June 2014, an entire city has been deprived of water… It was not Lent and it was not  Ramadan… A city martyred, forgotten, living amid the world’s indifference… A city which has not chosen its fate but submits to it … The city and its inhabitants, over two million persons, are deprived… deprived of water…

We are deprived of the water coming from the Euphrates. We are punished for I know not what crime that could have been committed. One cannot punish a whole population…One cannot remain silent … It is revolting to see children and the elderly in the streets of Aleppo waiting in front of the tap from a well to fill up a can or a bottle. It is not possible that in the third millenium a whole city can be deprived of water. We Marist Blues have launched many appeals to denounce this crime against humanity… We are doing everything possible to supply water to all those who ask for it, but the  situation has become untenable

At the moment I am writing this letter, the Muezzin is announcing the end of a day of fast for the Moslems. It is hot, …Almost 40 degrees… The main occupation of many people today will have to be to find water… It is a shame… Many friends abroad want to know who is responsible… It is not all that important to know. The essential thing is that the whole population suffers. Three years ago, when the war broke out in Aleppo, it was Ramadan, the ramadan of displacement… Last year, the Ramadan was the one of blockade and this Ramadan is the one of the cutting off of the water supply… What is going to happen next ? Why should people still be suffering ? The people are exhausted, They are worn out… It is true that they are patient, that they hope, that they expect, but why being patient ? Hoping in whom, expecting what ?

I invite you to live this experience for one, two, three days, for a week, for a month… Try this experience of deprivation… Imagine that someone diverts the drinking water, the home supply, in the little river which passes through your city and that it does not come as far as you…

 

Imagine that filling up two cans of water requires at least an hour of your time… Imagine that the water you come to fill up can cause you illnesses, poisoning, and sometimes hospitalisation…

And as if the cutting off of the water is not enough, it is necessary to add the electricity… One or two hours a day. There, too, I invite you to try the experience… One day without electricity, without fridge, without washing machine, without  TV. Without this, without that, without…

Aleppo, the forgotten city, is our city… A city which suffers… I think of S. : an academic, who sleeps with one of his children at his work place, while the rest of the family of  8 persons live in the shell of a bus. I think of G. who, to make a 30 minute crossing, has taken more than eleven hours to reach us. I think of S., a chauffeur, father of 4 children, two of them handicapped, and who live with two other families in a basement…

Unfortunately, many Aleppans have left the city… and this summer still more… To go looking elsewhere, inside Syria or outside, for a dignified life more fitting to be  called human ! … Aleppo, will it return to what it was... where to find signs of relief ? How will an eventual reconciliation take place, on what basis… when one has seen his house, fruit of a whole lifetime, destroyed by a bombardment or a mortar shell, or  when one has seen one of his own dead or seriously wounded…

When one lives in Aleppo, one is surprised at a friend’s return to the country and then very quickly disappointed on learning he has come to settle his affairs and leave for good. When one lives in Aleppo, one is torn by questions : should one wait to leave or should one do it immediately ? Should one install a generator or wait for the electricity to be restored ? Should one make the children go outside despite the fear of a mortar or a stray bullet, or keep them at home ? What activity to launch, for whom, why ? With whom and in the name of what ? 

And then there is this threat which comes from outside, from these fanatics, those who do not know the Syrian social fabric…They are there at the gates of the city to inaugurate a reign of terror… They are there to impose a law in the name of a religion with which many of their co-religionists do not identify… Those ones, they kill, they forbid, they prevent the free declaration of faith… You pay them the tribute « la jizya » a tax imposed on non-Moslems or you abandon everything and go elsewhere…

Following the example of Br Emili Turu, our Superior General, we support the appeal of Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Sant’Egidio community «Let us save Aleppo».

Living in Aleppo is a commitment to involvement and hope, it is an interior struggle not to give up, and let everything collapse, it is a determination to say no to the spiral of war and violence, it is a gaze at the misery of the other so as to run to his help…

We Marist Blues have chosen to have this gaze, we have chosen to take  initiatives, we have chosen not to let ourselves be paralysed by fear…, we have chosen to be glimmer of hope for all these persons displaced, impoverished, and wounded, and a resource for those who no longer have anything.

Our activities continue…

  • The children of the two projects : « I want to Learn » and « Learn to grow », are coming in for two weeks of summer activities under the title of : « The land of Happiness ».
  • The MIT has resumed its conferences and training sessions… 
  • All the aid activities continue… The regular monthly distribution of the various food baskets, the  distribution of hot meals, clothing, etc… 
  • The project « Civilian War wounded » has again saved many persons seriously wounded by mortar fire.

I conclude with the words of Pope Francis at last Sunday’s Angelus : « HOW MUCH HARM IS DONE BY HUMAN INDIFFERENCE TOWARDS THOSE IN NEED ! AND HOW MUCH MORE BY THE INDIFFERENCE OF CHRISTIANS. »

On behalf of the Marist Blues

Br Georges Sabe

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