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What is that Hope that you proclaim?



Blue Marists - Letter from Aleppo 25

18/03/2016: Syria

It is beautiful this Sunday morning of March, a blue sky, a radiant sun which warms; the cease-fire which entered into force two weeks ago urged people to be optimistic. The first days, it was respected.  The noise of the birds when waking up in the morning replaced the noise of the bombs. Electricity and water came back during two days after a total interruption of several months.  The people of Aleppo spent white nights washing, taking a bath, filling the reservoirs with water being afraid that the provisioning of water and electricity would be only temporary as it was the case on several occasions in the past. Unfortunately, this short bright interval lasted only some days.  Then the snipers began again their dirty work killing innocent civilians. Then the shells of the mortars began again to fall on certain neighborhoods, the terrorist group holding the best part.  The east of the town was not concerned about the truce. The provisioning of water and electricity was once again interrupted. Even if it was reestablished, the people from Aleppo knew that the regime of rationing was going to begin again, water, one day a week and electricity two hours a day. In spite of everything, this morning, everybody has a smile on the lips and hope in the heart. 

These last times the events have succeeded one another: the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Syrians towards Europe causing tensions among the European countries and among the inhabitants of the same country; The offensive of the Syrian army on the governorate of Aleppo to liberate our city besieged since three years and a half ago by the terrorist group Al Nosra; The cease-fire proclaimed, not always respected, in force since 15 days ago; It concerns the Syrian State and about one-hundred groups of rebels but not the two principal ones unanimously considered as terrorists.  The blocking of the only road (attacked by the armed groups)   that joins Aleppo with the rest of the country, during 8 days with the consequent interruption of the provision of essential products to the city, and this only a few days before the sad 5th anniversary of the beginning of the war in Syria.

Is this the beginning of the end of the nightmare? The cease-fire is it the prelude of a political solution coming soon? The Western countries submerged or overwhelmed by the millions of refugees, have they decided to hasten the political solution in order to stop the migratory flow? Finally, are they going to let us live in peace again among us, the Syrians as we have done during centuries? Is it necessary to be optimistic and hope or realistic and remain expecting? These questions, at present without any response, the Syrians in general and the people from Aleppo in particular ask themselves throughout the day.  

In waiting, we, the Blue Marists, continue our solidarity work with the displaced families and/or without resources.  Rami one of our volunteers, asked me the other day: « Why do you insist in saying that we are an association of solidarity and not a humanitarian organism?” The response is evident. For us, Blue Marists, the « beneficiaries » are not numbers on the lists; they are not virtual beings to feed, to lodge and to take care of; they have a name.  Behind each name, there is a face; there is a human person with his past history, sometimes unfortunate, plunged into mourning, his dramas, sufferings, his broken dreams, his future mortgaged; but also, a person who has desires and projects. We want to establish with them a relationship that will allow them, in spite of everything, to keep their dignity, their humanity and a certain hope.  

The family of S.B. is not a number. A month ago, it received a shell in its apartment: Soubhi B. had a fracture on the skull and the arm and lost his nose. His wife Gina B. lost her eyes and eye lids and all the bones in her face; that is only magma of burnt flesh; and their son was killed with the shell. 

The Family H. R. is not only a « beneficiary ». It has a painful, sorrowful past, an extremely difficult present and an uncertain future. The mother, Lina and her 9 children, displaced and refugees in the carcass of a building, in one room without walls and without toilets are human persons. The husband disappeared several months ago. In order to survive the older children collect the plastic and cardboard to sell it for recycling and the younger children collect the bread from the garbage bins to dry it and sell it as food for the animals.  

M.K., widow, mother of 5 children, displaced two times, the husband was killed by a sniper at the beginning of the war, one of her two daughters died a year ago after the explosion of a shell, a son student of medicine trying to study which is very difficult in the cave where they live.  M. or her daughter come walking every day to our house (two hours to come and to return) to get a hot meal for the family.  Is it that M. is only a number on the list of beneficiaries of the noon meal?  Does she not need that we look at her with love, that we listen to her with respect and that we accompany her with discretion? 

These are some examples, among numerous others, of dramas lived by the displaced families and/or without resources and who are taken care of by the Blue Marists.

Our different projects continue and develop

We have created a new « Basket » for 224 new families that we have accepted to take asked by an association which no longer has the means to continue its activity.  So the total number now is 800 displaced families who receive help every month.  A basket of substantial food, a complete medical basket, and recently the price of a monthly subscription of « 1 ampere » for the private generators which have filled the city everywhere to supply the “official” electricity which is not furnished.  For Easter every family is going to receive a bonus to buy 1 kilo of meat, foodstuff which has become very expensive that our families cannot pay for it.

« The Blue Marists for the lodging or accommodation of the displaced » continue their help to lodge the families in small apartments.  150 families have already been helped, some of them after three years.

Clothing, mattresses, blankets, cans of water and kitchen utensils are furnished when they ask for them or need them.  A hot meal is distributed every day at noon to 550 persons.

 The total interruption of the provision of water has obliged us to buy a 4th van or truck, equipped with a reservoir, a small generator, a pump, and a pipe, the families fill their reservoirs of water from hundreds of wells perforated or drilled all over the city, then they ploughed the city to fill the reservoirs from 250 to 500 liters of water that we furnished to our families.  This project “I am Thirsty” is greatly appreciated by the families.

Unemployment, the excessive increase of the cost of life and displacement are the cause that the majority of the people of Aleppo no longer have the means to take care of themselves.  With the “medical project of the Blue Marists”, we help the families to pay for a prescription, to pay for an X-Ray or for tests in the laboratory, to pay for hospitalization for some treatment or for a surgical operation.  Hundreds of medical acts are financed each year by us.

Our program « Civilians wounded in war » continues, thanks to the benevolent help of doctors and surgeons and the cooperation of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Apparition, to take care, free of charge, in the Hospital St. Louis, of the civilians wounded during the war.

Our Project “Drop of Milk” distributes every month powdered milk to 2700 children from 1 to 10 years of age and milk for infants, to 275 babies of less than a year of age who are not nursed by their mothers.

Very soon we are going to begin a new project « The Blue Marists for the eradication of illiteracy”.  In fact, we have seen and verified that the adults in numerous displaced families do not know how to read or write.  This project will allow them to profit during this period of war, of unemployment, of emptiness, to develop themselves.

« Learn to Grow » for children from 3 to 6 years of age;  “I want to Learn”  for children from 6 to 13 years of age and the Skill School for the adolescents all continue receiving more and more petitions of registration on the part of the parents and of the young people.

Concerning our center of Formation, the M.I.T., its seminaries are always occupied.  Unfortunately, we can only accept 20 candidates on the 50 or 60 petitions of inscription for each workshop.  We have two every month, one which lasts 3 days for young adults  from 20 to 40 years of age to allow them to acquire knowledge in different subjects such as we have done recently, « how to make a Power Point », « how to use the program Excel”, how to evaluate the yield or profit of a project”, etc.

Our Directive team, our 50 volunteers, our employees, the doctors, in one word, all the Blue Marists work steadily, without interruption in order that all these projects may be thought out, planned, directed and executed in the best possible way, in the Marist way.  That is to say, know « the beneficiaries », always treat them with respect and love, and listen to them when they need it.  We owe you very much, dear Friends, who support us by your messages of solidarity, your prayers and your gifts.

Very soon we will celebrate Easter, the feast of the Resurrection, the feast of Hope. Rami, again questioned me and said: What is that Hope that we proclaim when we have been living for 5 years in the most complete darkness?  I answered him: For us, the Blue Marists:   

« To Hope is to live fastened when everything trembles
It is to accept the risk when everything is assured
It is to propose a presence when everything is senseless
To Hope, is to live inhabited by love,
nourished by tenderness,
encouraged by peace
to Hope, is to advance when everything seems to be blocked
when everything seems to be finished
when all is condemned
It is to live at the  limit, at the frontier, at the extreme
of an essential choice:

'do not fear anything,
I carry you in the palms of my hand
I make you my friend'

To hope, is to say Magnificat
You are in my life
and I am in yours
an eternal poem of Love
It is Hope which helps us to exceed, to go beyond the gift and the sacrifice of self, to love more than one could imagine, to believe with all our heart and not only with all our reason.

Hope means that Jesus, who was incarnate and died on the cross for us, has risen and He lives in us.

After His Resurrection, Jesus sends someone to tell his disciples to wait for Him in Galilee. The disciples were sad and desperate since Jesus was dead.  They had lost all Hope. Their appointment in Galilee, with Jesus who had risen, gave them Hope. They knew that after death, there is the resurrection, and that after darkness, there will be the light. »

Happy Easter 

Nabil Antaki
For the Blue Marists

Power Point - Text de Nabil Antaki and Br Georges Sabe (3 MB): English | Español | Français | Português

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