2020-12-21 SYRIA

Letter from Aleppo No 40

A wait that does not end!

Dear Friends,

We are in the time of Advent; this time that marks the liturgical expectation of the birth of Christ. It is a time of hope and expectation.

The prophet Isaiah 9,1 proclaimed: “The people who walk in darkness see a great light…”.

Sadly, the Syrian people continue to walk in darkness. For him, the light is far from being seen!

Four years after the end of the war in Aleppo, its inhabitants, like all Syrians, continue to suffer from its consequences which are manifested today by other wars: An economic war, a war of sanctions, a war of devaluation of the local currency and so many other miseries… And, as if all of this were not enough, the COVID19 pandemic is worsening the anguish of my people.

The “Cesar Act” has as a result the punishing of the entire Syrian population by imposing sanctions at all levels.

How many times have I heard people say, “We almost miss the time when the bombs fell on us… It is true that we were afraid of the bombs; however, we were more comfortable. Today, the bombs no longer threaten us, but everything else suffocates us...”

A friend of mine who is a doctor told me that to complete a patient’s chemotherapy treatment, she needed a drug that the Syrian government used to provide for free. Today it costs over 4 million Syrian pounds… Imagine what it means when a very good salary barely reaches one hundred thousand Syrian pounds!

Tutti Fratelli

In this letter, I want to share with you my reflections based on the encyclical promulgated by the Holy Father on October 3, 2020. At number 25, he writes:

The wars, the violence, the persecution for racial or religious reasons, and so many attacks on human dignity are viewed in different ways depending on whether or not they suit certain, fundamentally economic interests. What is true when it suits a powerful person ceases to be true when it does not benefit him. These situations of violence are multiplying (painfully in many parts of the world, to the point of taking the features of what one might call a ‘third world war in stages)”.

Are we in Syria going through this “third world war in stages”?

Why do we have to spend the winter cold without fuel to warm up when our country is an oil producer, but the production fields are under the control of American troops?

In addition, Mr. Trump, the world order maker, just announced his intent not to leave this region of northeastern Syria.

Why does our currency have to undergo a galloping and constant devaluation? Who has an interest in this?

Why impoverish a people who used to live in dignity and make them at all costs beggars and in debt?

Who decided to deprive us of electricity, fuel, gasoline, bread, medicine and so many other necessities?

In another paragraph (26), the Pope tells us:

“This is not surprising if we consider the absence of horizons able to unite us, because what falls into ruin in any war is “the project of fraternity inscribed in the vocation of the human family”; this is why “any threatening situation fuels lack of confidence and withdrawal into oneself.” Thus, our world is moving forward in a meaningless dichotomy, with the pretension of “guaranteeing stability and peace on the basis of false security supported by a mentality of fear and mistrust”.

The words of the Holy Father come to explain this disillusion of the Syrian people.

How can we speak of a fraternity project when they impose upon us a false sense of security supported by a mentality of fear and mistrust?

How to understand that, in this 21st century, great powers decide the fate and the future of a country?

Blue Marists

And, although, we are often disappointed, tired and worried, we continue, as Blue Marists, to sow hope to the best of our ability.

We want to share few good news with you.

On Saturday, December 5, 2020, and on the occasion of World Volunteering Day, FOCSIV (Federation of Christian Organizations International Volunteering Service) awarded Dr. Nabil Antaki its 27th international volunteering award. It is a new recognition from an international body for the commitment of Dr. Nabil and for the work of the Blue Marists.

Our book “The Letters of Aleppo” has been published in both Spanish and Italian versions.

The Spanish version which has the title: “CARTAS DE ALEPO” is published by the Marist publishing house “Edelvives”. You can acquire it and give it as a Christmas present at the following address: https://www.edelvives.com/es/Catalogo/p/cartas-de-alepo

The Italian edition was published by Harmattan Italy under the title “LETTERE DA ALEPPO”. You can acquire it and offer it as a Christmas present, at the following address: https://www.amazon.it/Lettere-Aleppo…/dp/8878923982

The project “Sharing Bread” continues to serve the elderly. In fact, 170 elderly people, living alone in a precarious situation, without family and without support, receive a daily hot meal with fruit and bread, prepared by about ten Blue Marist ladies. The young volunteers who distribute these meals and in response to the Pope’s invitation to young people on the occasion of the 32nd World Youth Day, collect the words of wisdom kept by these elderly people. They thus participate in the campaign launched by the Laity Family Life (http://www.laityfamilylife.va).

Listening to people’s grievances, we could not go without an answer. We took the initiative to distribute a substantial food basket to 700 of the poorest families.

Blue Marist projects

Since the Syrian government has not enacted a 2nd lock down of the country, the other Blue Marist projects have resumed normally since September 2020.

The educational projects “Learn to Grow” and “I Want to Learn” have seen the number of children increase significantly. New premises have been fitted out to transform them into a classroom.

The Heartmade workshop added 3 other rooms to allow for greater production.

Since September 2020, all the members of the Blue Marists have undergone continuous training, the themes of which touch the Marist spirit and the sense of solidarity and volunteering.

By the time, you read this 40th letter, Christmas will be upon us. May this Christmas be a time of reunion, despite all the restrictions that are imposed. May this Christmas be a time of prayer for all the children of the world. May this Christmas be a time of hope.

Br. Georges Sabé

For the Blue Marists of Aleppo

13 December 2020


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