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1857:foundation of the Missionary Sisters of the Society of Mary (SMSM)
1871: the first Marist Brothers set out for Australia
1911: the first Marist Brothers set out for Madagascar

Marist Calendar - November

Letter of 24 March (Letter No 9 - extracts)



Suffering and hope in Aleppo

09/04/2013: Syria

Resignation and weariness sum up well the current state of mind of the inhabitants of Aleppo. In fact, the people of Aleppo are resigned :

-to seeing their city cut in two with the influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees who have invaded the « safe » zones, without complaining ;

-to hearing the deafening noise of machine gun bursts and  cannon fire, without flinching, and of airplanes, without lifting the head ;

-to living constantly under the threat of mortar shells falling anywhere, of sniper fire which kills anyone, and of car bombs which explode at any time, without being afraid ;

-to going home at sunset (6 pm now) and not going out until morning, transforming Aleppo into a ghost town, without any means of diversion ;

-to come across, every day, poverty and more and more beggars on the streets, without being revolted ; 

- to observe that the economy is completely wrecked, the factories dismantled and plundered and the shops burned, without despairing.   (…)

And, moreover, they are tired :

-tired of not seeing any glimmer of a solution to what has been happening in Syria for 2 years (since 15 March 2011) and in Aleppo for 8 months (since 23 July 2012).

-tired of seeing Syria, called the « cradle of civilisation » by the international community, and Aleppo, the most ancient town in the world  still inhabited, destroyed, their archaeological treasures stolen, their social tissue fraying, the security which once reigned there and which others envied, vanished, and the coexistence between the different communities of the country and the tolerance replaced by an imported religious fanaticism.  (…)

But in spite of this gloomy context, we, « the Marist Blues » continue with determination our activities in support of the refugees living in the three schools of Cheikh Maksoud. We go there every day to spend the day with them to accompany the mothers, divert, educate and teach the children, distribute supplies for breakfast and supper, bring a warm meal at midday, attend to the sick, inspect the hygiene and health conditions,... Clothing and shoes are distributed sometimes. For the last two weeks, the midday meal we distribute everyday to the refugees we are responsible for has been supplied without charge by a Moslem charitable association, « Al Ihssan », which prepares in its locations dozens of thousands of meals a day for the refugees in the schools.  (…)

We continue with our « Mountain basket » project to provide a monthly food basket to the Christians of the Cheikh Maksoud quarter who are without resources because of these events. They number 300 families. On Wednesday 27, there will be the distribution of the 8th monthly basket and then each family will also receive a kilo of meat so that Easter can also be a feast.

Nor do we forget the impoverished families who live outside the Cheikh Maksoud quarter and whom we have been supporting for 25 years within the framework of our association « the Ear of God ».

Recently, we Marists, have taken the initiative to propose a meeting of all the charitable associations which bring aid to the impoverished Christians of Aleppo. Those responsible for the 13 associations have met twice to get to know one another and to co-ordinate their activities, to match up their lists, and to standardise their assistance.

In our increasingly difficult daily life, we are consoled by some signs of confidence and Hope :

-Our volunteers continue their commitment with us although it is becoming more and more dangerous to go to Cheikh Maksoud, with access sometimes blocked, shells falling frequently, and snipers sometimes taking victims.

-The majority of Syrians refuse violence and aspire to the cessation of hostilities and the recovery of the former climate of fraternity.

-We are amazed at this network of solidarity which has become woven around us on the local as well as the  national or international levels. We cannot give sufficient thanks to all those who, by their thoughts,  messages or gifts have shown their friendship, solidarity and love.

To conclude, and on the occasion of the election of Pope Francis, we wish to share with you this prayer of St Francis of Assisi :

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace!
Where there is hate, let me put love.
Where there is offence, let me put pardon.
Where there is discord, let me put union.
Where there is error, let me put truth.
Where there is doubt, let me put faith.
Where there is despair, let me put hope.
Where there is darkness, let me put your light.
Where there is sadness, let me put joy.
O master, let me seek not so much
To be consoled……..as to console ;
To be understood……..as to understand ;
To be loved…………..as to love ;
For :
It is in giving…..that we receive ;
It is in forgetting self…..that we find ;
It is in pardoning…..that we are pardoned ;
It is in dying….that we are raised to eternal life.

On the occasion of Easter, we wish to say that we believe in Christian Hope, without which faith is only words and charity only almsgiving. We believe that the light will shine in the darkness and that after death there is resurrection and life.

Happy Easter  -  Christos Anesti
Nabil Antaki,  for the « Marist Blues ».


Sunday 31 March


To my friends around the world, my Marist brothers and friends,
I am sure you thought of us in your prayer on good Friday.

I know you are worried about us. I know you wish for us a resurrection, an end to the war, a glimmer of hope !
Unfortunately, I have sad news for you. Since dawn, the quarter of Jabal el Saydeh, where we have been conducting our mission for more than27 years and where we are at the service of 300 Christian families and 3 schools accomodating refugees, has been the theatre of fierce fighting.

The people are terrorised, shut up in their houses, prisoners of the madness of shooting, snipers, mortars… They cannot leave their house in any way, they are afraid. We cannot get to them at all. When it is possible, we make contact by telephone. What a calvary ! What a cross ! What despair !

I am not writing this to you to make you sorry for my people… I am writing because I am sad, absolutely sad, with a sadness that extinguishes the little hope remaining !

I am writing to you to cry out loud : enough ! I have already expressed on other occasions this rejection of the war. All these questions rise within me, in the name of all these people, in the name of their children, the young people, the adults : Why ? Why ? And in the name of what ? Who is the warlord who has decided to kill us, exterminate us, make an end of us ? Who is the decision-maker who wishes such suffering to be our daily bread for month after month ? Who is the one who invites us to the table of crucifixion ? I am ashamed to say that men on this land decide for death !

Brother Georges Sabe

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