Message from Father Hugo Alaniz, IVE from Aleppo: “People must beg to survive”

Aleppo, March 19th 2018

Dear All

In the middle of last December I arrived at Aleppo, my new destination, a new mission.  Taking advantage of the festive Christmas period I began visiting families both in the Vicariate (parish) where we live and the Al Midan area.  They are two very different realities but both have in common the great suffering and anguish due to its past.

The first zone is more of a residential area to the west of Aleppo, beautiful three stories buildings with beautiful gardens, wide roads and green spaces.  The parish is a building of no more than 10 years of age, located 100 meters from the university campus and therefore the streets are filled with young people.  While some bombs fell large traces of the previous war are not that visible and obvious.

On the other hand, Midan is located to the east of the city, a working class area, with groups of humble building of up to 8 stories, with small apartments for large families, which are accessible via dark and narrow staircases…tight roads, full of debris and now, in rainy season, a lot of mud. These are the people that suddenly had to see their houses threaten by different terrorist groups because they had taken control of the area for nearly 4 years.  80% of the area is destroyed, with clear signs of the military engagements, mountains of debris where one can imagine where families lived before a large explosion…and the sections of this area that had the lucky of not being in the line of fire were destroyed by those that took control of them, including breaking divisionary walls to ensure that all rooms were not left unlooted.

Here is where we have our church, “Our Lady of the Annunciation”, which had the same fate as the houses of its believers.

Many of them were left without anything. A large number of people emigrated. Those that stayed were received by the families in safer zones of the city, others were received by the church, others were helped in order to search and rent a small apartment. But they lost the little they had, even their works, their businesses… the majority of these families were left with nothing.

Nowadays, apart from the sadness from what they have suffered, deep inside them there is great uncertainty over the end of these conflict and the desired peace (because every day the conflict can be heard not in the city now but still nearby). It’s very crude the necessity in which the majority of families are loving it a hard and sad reality. There is hunger, need and worst of all, the temptation to lose hope and the helplessness when facing the near and sad future.

The Church has helped and continues to do so (in its different rites) a lot of these people. It is small but it allows them to survive. There are institutions that help with medicines and operations, other with food. But sadly this is no longer news as the help does not arrive like it once did, they are scarce. In addition to this is the embargo which world countries have sanctioned to Syria.  This complicates the arrival of foreign aid. Literally, people must beg to survive.

There continues to be great need.

Many families do not know how to resolve these problems. And there are the most vulnerable, the elderly who are alone, families are poorer, or the desperate situations with certain families (with a relative in prison; a kidnapped daughter who cannot returns and asks her parents for help for her children; in another family a son with addictions or in once case a person suffering with a disability…).

Our fear is that these personal problems if augmented can lead to great need and poverty.

In order to have an idea of the daily reality amongst these people, the cost of living and how they survive, I will state some cases though there are many more that I have come to know these recent days:

  • A man work as a hairdresser in my parish earning 50 US dollars a month, from there he pays the rent of the business premises and with the remainder him and his family live…both his children are at University.
  • Abu George, got a cleaning job in a Doctor’s clinic. He earns 26 US dollars monthly. He is married and has a daughter with disabilities.
  • Another man sells gas per kilo and cigarette in a very simple store, very near home to have his wife nearby whom has had heart surgery. He earns 20 US dollars a month. At least the humble apartment belongs to them thanks to a donation.
  • The rent of a two bedroom apartment, bath and kitchen (in a 5 storey, simple flat without an elevator) costs around 30-40 US dollars, in a working class area not ideal for young and teenage girls.
  • A kilo of meat costs nearly 9 US dollars, a liter of petrol is at 0,55 US dollars (poor quality), 0,66 per liter for diesel.  With a “family booklet” you can get bread free, but once must be willing to queue up in a 100 meter queue and put up with people constantly jumping the queue.

Before this war Syria did not have external debt, and like Iraq had an abundance of natural resources. Now there is little daily electricity and there is a cobweb of disorganized cables at street level from which families can have electricity access paying at an expensive hourly rate.

A family of 5 would need 400 US dollars to stay above the poverty line. In my parish they are miles away from achieving this, in fact they don’t even have enough to survive. It is an emergency situation for the families involved.

Without doubt our Mission is to bring the gospel to these people and families. They truly appreciate the moral and spiritual support, the visits to their homes, the blessings in the cemeteries of so many fallen family members as a result of this terrible war. The mass we celebrate in our loaned church it is a great consolation. They are enthusiastic and uplifted by the upcoming opening of Our Lady of the Annunciation Church. But facing such a reality we must commit ourselves by giving them aid and help which is within our reach:

  • Our idea is addition from spiritual help, to begin with activities such as postwar therapy and depending on how much help we can get in helping families continue surviving and help them to a more prosperous future. We have begun with recreational activities, family meetings, sports, and meeting up with gathering at people’s homes.
  • The priests alongside the Bishop who came to replace, had presented a project which was subsequently accepted a project regarding hairdressing classes, makeups and manicures. Don’t think it will be me giving these classes 😉 We are trying to specify what is needed to begin this. We also intend to start soon with music classes, English and informatics.
  • Something worth specifying is help to university students. I believe that the best help is to promote parents to educate their children in hope of improving their work and future prospects. The subsequent generation can then aid in the family subsistence. This would mean that during their studies they cannot contribute economically so sponsors would be needed.
  • Once finished the church repairs we will try to continue with the lower floor of the same building. Later we would try to get sewing machines to develop tailoring abilities and aiming higher ideally we would get people to purchase such work but this is in the future.
  • We urgently need to help families with house repairs damaged in attacks. To a larger extent its partial repairs in some cases it is a larger structural repair. Depending on what we can muster we will begin with these works. This work also has another objective, to provide employment.
  • Finally there is the question of now, where the most unfortunate families need urgent help, the most vulnerable and don’t know how to help themselves.…

Thank God I found a brilliant group of volunteers who are those that help me to meet and know the families, to understand situations, to plan and to dream… I believe it is essential that the people here get involved as well in acts of charity, thinking of their brothers and helping at least with their help and volunteering for others.

I count on them and count on you guys to specify objective. Undoubtedly the first port of call is prayer, it is He who sustains us, comforts us and helps us with His grace. For that reason I ask that you pray especially to our Lord asking for peace in these countries.

If you wish to get in touch with us:

Our lady of the Annunciation Church, Latin Church, Aleppo. (mariaannunciation.Aleppo@ive.org)

Padre Hugo Fabián Alaniz,VE (hugoalaniz@ive.org) Mobile and Whatsapp: +963 991 121 167

If you would like to make a donation, contact me via mail or WhatsApp.

Please include “Help for Fr. Hugo’s Mission” in the subject/memo line of your bank or PayPal donation.

To make a donation via PayPal, click on the following link:

https://www.facebook.com/SOScristianosensiria/app/190322544333196/

Perhaps to some it catches their attention my way of presenting this reality or being so direct in asking for help but you should see the faces of the people I have met these days. For them I would do so much more.

I appreciate the prayers for these intentions and our people. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch for questions and suggestions.

I take this opportunity to wish you a Holy Week of preparation for Easter, and may our lives be illuminated by the light He offers us.

In Christ and Mary, Our Lady of the Mount, who in Anjara (Jordan) wept tears of blood anticipating what was to come.

Fr Hugo Fabian Alaniz, IVE

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Visit of Mr. Apostolic Nuncio of Syria

His Excellency Mario Zenari visited Aleppo

From the 17th  to  the 23rd of  May we  received the visit of His Excellency Mario Zenari, Apostolic Nuncio to Syria. During his stay in this town, he met with the bishops of various rites, visited several neighborhoods and families, he held a meeting with all the enshrined of Aleppo and celebrated the Holy Mass in different churches of the city, all of which he was able to make direct contact with the reality that the Christians in this town are facing.

He shared with the faithful the concern,

the greetings and the

prayers of Pope Francis for the Christians of Syria

 

He also commented to the faithful that when he sees the Pope he will tell him that while he has seen many destroyed churches, he will also tell him that he has seen the Church very much alive, incarnated in each and every one of the faithful. He said that he was expecting to find small groups of followers in Masses but he found the Churches were full.

 

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That in spite of the suffering and hardship that Christians must face,

it is so touching to hear them sing the Hallelujah

before the proclamation of the Word of God.

 

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The visit of the Apostolic Nuncio has been encouraging to Christians of Aleppo and allowed them to see once again the maternal presence of the Church next to them, the spiritual and material assistance provided to them in these moments of particular difficulty.

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Aleppo is bleeding out…

 

So far, the hardest day of war

lived in the country

On Tuesday, 3rd of May, we lived in Aleppo- all the media agrees to say- the most difficult day of the war during this five years in the country. There were days that the fighting lasted for about 15 or 17 hours without interruption.
Today, Friday, May 6th, we visited some of the families that have suffered the destructive consequences of these past days of fierce fighting. One of them told us:

“a missile fell at our home. My husband took in his arms our daughter of a year and eight months and went down immediately. I followed him and in that same instant, another two missiles fell in the same place where I was standing seconds before. We lost everything; we have nowhere to go. I’m pregnant. We are three families living in a small room; it is impossible to live like this “.

The lady who spoke is 29 years old, and she has cancer. She has already been operated three times. “Since that happened last Tuesday, I still couldn’t have a shower,” she said that showing us the dust of the explosions attached to her clothes.

Another family told us: “we left the house; it was not ours. A family friend of us who travelled abroad lent it to us. The house is in an area where missiles are falling almost continually. Our life is in danger and we have only one daughter of ten years of age. Since last week, we are living in this room where I work as a hairdresser. Our daughter is deaf-mute, and she needs treatment but as of now it is impossible “.

 

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Another person says: “this is our house, it is a small house and extremely poor, but at the same time we keep it neat and clean. We live in this top floor, the most dangerous. We are the only Christian family in this neighbourhood. We want to go to a safer place, but we don’t have any means. My son has epilepsy. My husband has been operated from the heart and has no job. We can’t go outside or look outside the balcony because there are snipers in this street”.

 

The Last one says: ” I am a widow, I have three daughters. My husband was in the army and died. I have a job in San Vicente, but it is just enough for me to pay for the electricity”. Another young girl, of only ten years of age, said: “I would like to get out of here at least for a year so that I could have a quieter life. It is hard to live here as missiles are dropping every minute”.

The needs are countless:

Food, medicine, clothing,

needs of renting at least a small room where to live.

We can say without exaggeration, that Aleppo is dressed in mourning and has seen run the blood of her children on her streets. Until this afternoon, the city has been paralysed since Tuesday. Most premises were closed, people stayed in their homes, afraid of going out.

However, in this every situation of extreme necessity, we do not hear a single complaint against God, nor resentment or reproach. On the contrary, we have found souls that we can call heroic: they have lost their children because of the war, missiles have destroyed their homes, and yet they visit and help families living in extreme situations.

 

“Their faith allows them to suffer these afflictions

with great fortitude”

 

When a missile falls, they go immediately to the aid the victims without thinking that another can fall and catch up with them: they do not doubt in helping others in need, and they do it even as they risk their life.

 

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In the midst of the great pain that we live in these days, we give thanks to God for the gift of these children, Christians of name and fact; they know how to give testimony of their faith with their life.

Thanks again to all those who are praying for peace in Syria and the Christians here. God will reward you generously!

Mary of Nazareth
Aleppo, Syria, may 6, 2016

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“if they want to control the flow of refugees, stop sending weapons and buying oil”

“the situation in Iraq is exhausting.”

 

“It’s been twelve years now that there are about 20 attacks a day. A person goes to the market, and you don’t know if he or she is going to come back alive” tells us Father Luis Montes, missionary in Irak and a priest of the Argentine Institute of the Incarnate Word, who was passing by Spain, thanks to the Church in Need. His agenda in Madrid was abruptly interrupted by the death of his mother at the age of 83. Maria Matka Boska mMontes belonged to his religious family (Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara). She joined the Religious Family when she was widowed at the age of 77. Of her seven children (six still live), three are priests, two of them missionaries in Iraq.
Luis Montes affirmed to ‘Alpha and Omega’ that “the human forces of Iraqis are failing”. “the majority wants to go”. The one and a half million Christians who were in 2003, now are no more than 300.000 in the whole country because they want to leave, admits the missionary.

 

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“There’s naivety.

They think it was going to be all better,

but we already have cases of families

who want to come back”.

 

Many are settled in European countries and “do not adapt“. Others are living severely in refugee camps, where they also send Muslim extremists who even persecute women who do not wear the veil. We recently received news from one of our families in who is now in Germany. This is happening in the heart of Europe “.
For the priest, the solution would be “that Europe will put pressure on the Gulf countries so that they receive Muslim refugees there. Saudi Arabia pays for the building of  Mosks all over the world, but has closed its borders to refugees “. Another way of ending this situation would be that:

 

“the West stops sending weapons

to the moderate rebels in Syria.

There is no moderation at all,

they are all terrorists.

If you want to stop the flow of refugees,

stop sending weapons and buying oil “

 
It’s been two months now that Father Luis Montes left his little parish in Baghdad to take care of the seminar of Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. “there are 17 seminarians. Vocations are essential, because here there are crammed with thousands of refugees who have been suffering this for years, and they lost all hope “.

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‘we are all guilty of the war in Syria’

For two years Sister Myriam helped and

accompanied persecuted Christians

 

The Sister Myriam Yeshua was in Aleppo, one of the largest cities of Syria, when the war started.For two years she helped and accompanied persecuted Christians. Today, three years later, she explains how the conflict, day after day, becomes more and more inhuman.
Myriam Yeshua, is a sister of the Institute of the Incarnate Word. She arrived in Syria with only 24 years old. The apostolate that initially seemed “simple” ended up becoming the most painful experience of your life.

 

“The apostolate that initially seemed ‘simple,’

ended up becoming

the most challenging experience of my life.”

 
Despite all the difficulties, the missionary explained during a conference in a parish of Madrid, who has lived alongside the Syrian Christians during the war “has been a grace”.

“living face to face with death makes you realise

what really matters in life.”

The conflict came to Syria at the end of February 2011. In spite of the fact that the missionaries of the Incarnate Word had the opportunity to return to their homes, they decided to stay close to the neediest. “the war came when we thought it was impossible, no one was prepared”, Explains the sister.

“There’s no need even to mention the injustice of this war,

where everything is valid,

where no one speaks up,

where no one does anything.”

After five years of conflict, the situation is getting worse. “it is shameful how no one cares about what’s going on. We have to wake up, we can’t look the other way, this can happen to anyone “.

The missionary narrates, very touched by the situation, the fortitude and courage of Christians who live their daily life with martyrial faith, and prefer a thousand times “to lose their life before losing their soul”.

“they have lost everything,

but I still find it hard to find here,

the same smiles that I see there”,

Confesses the sister.

Despite the constant tension that is lived in the city of Aleppo, the endless days without water or electricity, families destroyed and the human fatigue, Myriam points out that, even then, Christians “hold fast to the light of hope”.

“we are all guilty of the war in Syria.

The War is the result of hate,

and if we don’t do good,

or we fall into the indifference,

we are cooperating with it”,

The sister that, over and over again, requests that the blood of Christians killed at the hands of the ISIS don’t fall in vain.

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11061333_10153132082634400_5641081862604777804_nnA reporter came and wanted to photograph this little syrian girl.

She thought the camera was a weapon, so she surrendered.

Looking into her eyes, all I can think of is how much her soul is damaged.

Will life ever do justice to her childhood and bring back a smile to this angelic face?

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The “rebels” say no to truce in Aleppo. Bishop Abou Khazen: powers from outside plan our torture

Aleppo (Agenzia Fides) – The refusal of the anti-Assad forces to humanitarian truce in Aleppo proposed by the UN envoy Staffan de Mistura is “a serious matter” and proves Picture1once again that the Syrian conflict “will not end until all the forces that are fueling it from the outside want to make it last”.

This is how Bishop Georges Abou Khazen OFM, Apostolic Vicar of Aleppo for the Catholics of the Latin rite, considers the refusal with which the groups – including those supported by the West – have rejected the idea of a cease-fire that would allow to bring aid to the population of the metropolis battered by years of conflict. Continue reading

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