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Revolt and Compassion

 

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Letter from Aleppo No 27

21/09/2016: Syria

(September 17th 2016) The truce negotiated between the Russians and the Americans took effect 5 days ago. So far, it is overall respected. The Aleppins Muslims were able to celebrate the Eid Al Adha (the holiday of the sacrifice) in the streets and public gardens without fearing the mortars and gas canisters full of nails and explosives that the rebels have been launching on Aleppo for the past four years and two months making many victims every day. So far, there has been no carnage as what happened 70 days ago during the Fitr Holiday, when mortars launched onto civilian’s neighborhoods, onto streets full of celebrating families, killing dozens of people, mostly children. But the Aleppins are on the guard; they are skeptical about the long term compliance with the truce, as it does not include the two groups recognized by the international community as terrorists, Daesh (ISIS) and Al Nosra Front.

Recently, the situation became very complicated. Now, there is an internationalization of the conflict on the ground. On one hand, Turkey, who for years supported the terrorists by letting them pass through its borders and arming them, became a main actor on the ground. In fact, its army went into Syria (without the permission of Syria, which is a sovereign country and a founding member of the United Nations) to supposedly fight Daesh but mainly to fight the Kurdish militias, which control many cities and villages on the Syrian border side south of Turkey. But those militias are supported, advised and armed by the Americans who are, in theory, Turkey's allies, what a mess.

On the other hand, the Americans admitted to have a base in Syria with members of Special Forces close to Hassake, in east Syria. Finally, no one is talking about resuming the negotiations and the stalemate continues.

 

Aleppo, our city still suffers. The western media made of it the front page of the conflict. The Aleppins would have preferred not to have that reputation.

They have been suffering for more than four years and can't wait for this nightmare to be over. They are revolted when the media only covers the suffering of the civilians of the few neighborhoods of east Aleppo controlled by the rebels and terrorists, which has 250,000 inhabitants. The sufferings of the million and a half of the Aleppins of west Aleppo are happening in silence. They are revolted by the dozens of mortars, missiles and gas canisters that fall everyday on Aleppo's civilians’ neighborhoods without anyone protesting. They are revolted by the complete power outage since a long time, as the power stations are on the rebels’ side. They are revolted by the complete shut off of the water during the summer heat waves (40c/ 104F in the shade), obliged to use water from the 300 wells drilled in the city in the past two years. They are revolted by the blockade they endure every now and then, and the shortages that follow. They are revolted to see that every time the Syrian army move a little bit forward or win a battle to loosen the siege that the terrorists have imposed on Aleppo, the western governments and media call it a crime against humanity and ask for a truce to stop the progress of the Syrian army.

 

The tragedies, that we live or witness, are so many that we are always revolted. Here are few examples:

Mahmoud, a 6 years old boy, whose father died, was born without arms. He used to live with his mother, his sister and his uncle in a small town of the province of Aleppo under the control of Daesh. This group would not allow the inhabitants of the cities they control to leave. They use them as human shields. The family, as many others, decided to leave at night to go to Aleppo. Mahmoud was carried by his uncle when a land mine exploded killing the uncle and injuring Mahmoud's legs and feet. They had to amputate his legs. And here is Mahmoud without arms and legs; Revolt and Compassion.

The real estate project of 1070 is made of dozens of unfinished buildings because of the war, with no walls, no plumbing; only a floor and a roof. They were occupied by hundreds of displaced families. Those families left their apartments in July 2012, when the rebels invaded their neighborhoods, and took shelter in Aleppo under the control of the Syrian government. They first lived in public schools, then they were transferred to "1070" where they settled using tarps as walls, gallons for the water and buckets as restrooms. A month ago, 1070 was the target, over many consecutive days, of mortars and missiles launched by the terrorists of Al Nosra before they invaded the area. Those displaced, for the third time, abandoned their dead and wounded and the little they had collected in 4 years of misery to live under tents in the median strip of the beltway; Revolt and Compassion.

The exodus of the inhabitants of Aleppo, especially the Christians, continues. After Europe then Canada, it is now Australia's turn to issue visas to the Syrian refugees. The Christians of Aleppo are only a quarter of what they used to be before the war.

 

Between revolt and compassion, we, the Blue Marists, continue our programs in support of the displaced families and the families in need.

 The program "The Blue Marists for the Displaced “continues to distribute monthly food and hygiene baskets to 850 families; we also help them pay the price for subscription to "1 Ampere" for the private generators to be able to light up few lamps in the evening. We give them meat or chicken once a month. We rent for them small apartments to live in. Again, this year, for the start of the school year, we gave school supplies to all of the children who go to school in addition to helping them pay the tuition.

The project "War Wounded Civilians" continues to treat, for free, the civilians from all religions, wounded by bullets or shrapnel in St Louis Hospital, the best private hospital of the city.

"The Blue Marist Medical Progam" finances every month more than 100 medical procedures to help the patients who can't afford the price of surgery, hospital stay, CT scan, or sometimes a doctor visit or some lab tests.

The project "I Am Thirsty" continues to distribute water, for free, to the families we are taking care of. Our 4 vans, equipped with water tanks, go back and forth between the wells and the apartments.

The project" Drop of Milk" provide milk monthly to almost 3000 children between the age of few days to 10 years.

In the beginning of the summer, we transformed a part of our yard into a garden with swings, slides, etc.; that is how we opened our summer recreational space, where families come to spend 5 afternoons a week in a place safer than their neighborhoods. The kids play under the watch of monitors and the adults spend some recreational time, playing cards, backgammon or simply relax sipping coffee, tea or soda and nibbling on seeds. Our two buses commute between our place and their neighborhoods. This initiative made everyone happy and is an anti-stress therapy for everybody.

Our visiting team grew with many volunteers, former Marists from the Champagnat Family. That team visits the families regularly to create bonds of solidarity, to inquire about their needs and try to satisfy them.

Our educational projects are going well. The educators of the 2 projects "Learn to Grow" and "I Want to Learn" meet every morning, since the beginning of September, for training sessions awaiting the start of the school year, which will be challenging given the record numbers of applicants and accepted applications despite the limited space.

All the children of "I Want to Learn" who were not going to school for various reasons, passed the tests of the ministry of education and will join the school curriculum without restarting from the beginning. It is a matter of pride for the children, their parents and for us.

"Skill School" continues to gather teenagers; their number has reached 75, which is the maximum limit of our ability.

Our adult training center, the "M.I.T." in addition to the 3 days’ sessions organized for the past 3 years several times a month, will start in few days a new method. A 100 hours’ session spread over 8 weeks, 3 afternoons a week, to allow working people to participate. The theme is: how to start his/her own project? We hired the best experts from Aleppo to help the young adults to undertake and complete a project and make a living. We will teach, in a practical manner, the participants how to find a project idea, how to realize it, how to evaluate the cost of the product, how to make a budget, how to establish an action plan, how to finance it, how to market it and sell it. At the end of the session, the participants will present their projects to the jury of experts and we will help fund the best feasible projects.

Our project "Eradication of Illiteracy" ended its first session of 40 participants. All the participants took the Ministry of Culture's exam and received a certificate stating that they are at a 4th grade of elementary level. You should have seen the joy of those adults receiving their certificates, all of them proud to know how to read and write.

 

We continue to support the families, to listen to them, to provide psychological support, to understand their needs, to restore their dignity that is often flouted, to give them a little bit of hope and make them feel that we are in solidarity with them.

Revolted by all that we experience, see, hear and feel, yes, we, the Blue Marists are revolted. We cannot accept the unacceptable.

Compassion is one of our values. We share the suffering of our brothers and sisters, their distress, their despair and their tragedies.

Solidarity is our way of living charity and love with them and for them.

_____________

Aleppo, September 17th 2016
Nabil Antaki - For the Blue Marists

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