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Letter from Aleppo N. 36



In the heart of the summer 2019

08/08/2019: Syria

In July, it is usually very hot in Aleppo. It is the month when a lot of young peo-ple used to participate in camps outside of the city. There were daily departures of groups of campers toward vacation destinations. Some used to go to the mountains like Kessab, others to Marmarita or to Machta el Helou in the Valley of Christians. Those who know these areas of Syria know that there are often children and young people roaming the roads of the villages, some walking around and others camping. This summer, and for the last two years, these roads, which had been deserted for the prior 5 years because of the war, have seen the young people come back and in large numbers. There are other places that are still off limit for them to go to: the christian villages of the province of Idleb as Knayeh, Yacoubieh and Ghassanieh where only a small, very small Chris-tians community remains.


Still great tension in Syria

Even though a good part of the country has been liberated, and the media only speaks from time to time of Syria, there are still hotbeds of great tension like the province of Idleb and the north-east of the country.

The Syrian army is fighting to liberate Idleb, a province held by al Nosra. 
Can we hope that one day soon all of these regions can be liberated? We wish for all the occupied territories to return under Syrian sovereignty.

In the meantime, we are suffering from the consequences of an embargo and from the western sanctions that are preventing the reconstruction of the country and the economic recovery.

The Syrians are becoming more impoverished. The buying power is diminishing.
I think of this man, who is older than 75 years, a former Marist student, who finds himself without any economic resources: “The few savings I had, have been depleted. I don’t have anything left. I was not poor. I used to make a living. I raised my middle-class family with dignity. Now I am poor!”.

Poor… poverty… Misery… not to eat enough… not to find a job… the people, who have suffered the atrocities of the war, continue to pay the price for resisting and wanting to stay. While listening to the people, many believe that they have made the wrong choice by not leaving; especially, when relatives or friends, who have emigrated and managed to adapt in the other countries, describe their sit-uation.

And it is not over: on the horizon, the fear of a possible war that could ignite the entire region of the middle east persists endlessly.


Aleppo wants to be reborn

Some neighborhoods of Aleppo continue to be the target of bomb shells that often result in civilians victims. And despite this, Aleppo wants to be reborn from its ashes. Its inhabitants do everything they can to get out of their misery, to "Choose life". It's not always easy. We often meet mothers of families who are widowed, divorced or who have no news of their missing husbands. They have 3 or 4 children. The war has passed into their homes. It did not only force them to move so many times and live in neighborhoods they did not know, with people who are not theirs, but it also has forced them to live in the greatest misery. I do not want to draw up a black list of the dramas, but it is a terrible reality.

To walk in some streets of Aleppo, to see people smoking a narguile in a cafe, to observe the appearances of a normal life ... All this is real. Even an alley of the souks of Aleppo has been completely restored… It has a new look while keeping the old style ...But there is still much to do, especially to redo the man, redo the community, redo the belonging and citizenship. It remains to teach values: open to the other, different, and to respect him, to peacefully resolve the differences, and to move toward the most deprived…

The Heroes of Silence

Two months ago, the program "Pueblo de Dios" of the Spanish television presented in two stages the action and the mission of the Blue Marists. The television crew had spent a week with us. The first show was entitled "The Heroes of Silence”.
Are we really "Heroes"? What silence is it?

Almost 3 years after the end of the fighting in the city of Aleppo, our mission is more and more relevant. To be at the service of the population, especially the most vulnerable people.

We continue to help the displaced. We pay rents for hundreds of families who were unable to return to their homes.

We help to the extent of our means to treat for free the poorest in the best hos-pitals in the city.

Our adult education center, MIT, continues to provide sessions of training, learn-ing and psychological support.

In order to create work opportunities and encourage young people to remain in the country, the Micro-Projects program continues to train dozens of young people on "How to launch their own micro-project" and to financially support micro-projects that our jury selects.

The school year of the educational projects for children aged 3 to 7 (Learning to Grow and I Want to Learn) is over, and some summer activities have been orga-nized during the months of June and July. Registrations for next year are an-nouncing a growing demand that we still cannot satisfy, given the limited space we have.

Camp of displaced "SHAHBA"

We continue to animate the camp of displaced "SHAHBA" 25 kilometers from Aleppo. We go there several times a week to take charge of educating the chil-dren and adolescents, the accompaniment of the mothers and the distribution of food and hygiene products. Recently, we started a medical program with regular visit of a gynecologist and an internist and a free supply of necessary medicines.

The displaced young people from the camp attended vocational training sessions for 5 months (make-up and sewing for the girls, painting buildings and hairdress-ing for the young men). The participants then received a certificate of attend-ance and a working tool corresponding to the profession they learned. We hope to continue to train young people for their future professions.

Our mobile library for the camp is enriched with more and more reading books. We encourage all children, even if they cannot read, to borrow books. The book becomes a friend, a source of inspiration and imagination, an opportunity to learn faster. The library team leaders take advantage of the screen installed in the library to do educational activities by projecting films or offering games of the general culture.

At the end of Ramadan, we organized at the camp, a big party for displaced fam-ilies, a children's fair and a distribution of new clothes for everyone.

Heartmade, for the recycling of fabric and clothes, will get a new look. A new store has been rented. It is located in a more commercial street. The decoration will be done soon and we hope to open around August 15th.

The team of Seeds is preparing a new action plan for next year. We will expand the space of our tent to accommodate other children and young people for more and more advanced psychological support.

Several friends came to spend time with us. They took part in many educational activities: Soumaya Hallak for music, Diane Antakli from the Baroudeurs de l’Espoir for sports and Veronica Hurtubia for a 2nd session of resilience training.

The training and development meetings for women are very successful.

The women of the project "Cut and Sew" finished the 7th learning session. They are very satisfied.

"Drop of Milk" continues to serve 3,000 children who regularly receive their monthly milk supply.

This summer, and for the first time, we are organizing a week-long stay in Lebanon for our entire team of Marist Blue volunteers. Indeed, the Marist Brothers have a summer house in Faraya (Lebanon). We will be there from August 5th un-til the 12th. It will be a time of conviviality and rest... A time of spirituality and discovery of Lebanon and, for some, a time to meet with family members they have not been able to see for years.

Finally, I share with you this text of Jean d'Ormesson in his book "An Endless Hosanna”.
"Christians do not have the right to complain-besides, they do not complain. Not only can they not be forbidden to believe in a creator God of heaven and earth, but they are lucky to have as a model, under their eyes, a character to whom existence and place in our history cannot be challenged: Jesus.

At least it is allowed to admire and love him without asking too much about his reality. If anyone has left a striking trace in the minds of men, it is the Christ Jesus.”

Have a good vacation and summer.


Fr. Georges SABE
For the Blue Marists

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