Why do we ask for help?

The current situation of Christians in Syria

Fr. David Fermandez, IVE (Missionary in Aleppo)

We try to help everyone but beginning especially with the Christians who are most in need, lest they be forced to leave the country resulting in the absence of Christian witness in this noble nation, abandoning their land, their roots, their dead ones … They generally want to stay but many are not able to, and therefore have fled to neighboring countries, to places of refuge or where they see a more secure and prosperous future for their children. We have been told that there are over 1 million refugees only in Aleppo!

It’s easy to say: “stay and bear witness to Christ” but it’s hard for them to do so when they are unsure of getting even the basic needs … and even more when they do not see any way of protection or security for their lives …

So we want our aid to be firstly directed to the Christian families in the neighborhood of “El Midán” which is one of the worst affected areas and is also the neighborhood where the IVE serves in a chapel, which is providentially called “Chapel of the Annunciation”; we have helping there pastorally for the past three years. The chapel is run by the Sisters of St. Dorothy, who along with a priest of the IVE take care of the pastoral work. This area is one of the poorest in Aleppo and as I said before, one of the most affected by the fighting because it is one of the neighborhoods surrounding the central part of the City, which is vied by both the fighting groups. So there are ongoing clashes. Particularly affected is the building that houses the Chapel, since it is right next to a property of the national police, for which reason both the sisters and all the inhabitants had to leave the area. We can no longer celebrate Mass there.

Many buildings are demolished and other homes hit by bullets or shells of tanks, planes or helicopters. For this reason, many people had to leave without taking anything, leaving their homes and the little that they possessed, since they were very poor. Some managed to find shelter among their relatives from other areas, or in some convents or schools prepared for this purpose; others had the possibility of renting a room in a less affected area, and so we also have cases of families huddled in small places.

This flight caused many other problems like exposing the homes to the looting of thieves. There are many cases of families, from whom EVERYTHING was stolen.

It should also be kept in mind that Aleppo is an industrial city, but because of the exterior blockades and the war, many entrepreneurs were forced to close their factories and flee the country, which also affected mainly the lower class people who worked in these factories.

Now, many do not have homes, do not have jobs, many lost their property because of looting, and added to these is the fact that many places of help for refugees are mainly for Muslims. And while there is generally good relations among the people, the threat by fundamentalist Muslims is present; these fundamentalists, taking  advantage of the situation, threaten the minorities; and for that reason many Christians, for fear of these difficulties, do not go to the public assistance centers.

Only in “El Midán” we have been able to help 60 families. These are cases of extreme urgency or need immediate help, either because they have no job or home or because they have small children or patients with mental or physical disabilities, to whom they are not able to give proper assistance due to the economy or simply because the hospitals are not able to provide enough care … we must, therefore, do something to help them…

A basic salary is $ 200 (14,000 Syrian liras), and with this a family with 2 children are able to live with only the basic supplies … now, this amount is certainly very little because the prices of everything have gone up 200% …. To give you an idea, only for gas they must pay $50 …. renting a small room is about $ 120,  added to these are the expenses for medicines  in case of illness; due to the change of season and there are many who are sick and are without assistance …

They are also without coats, without blankets …. and now as winter approaches there arises the problem of heating since one finds only a little fuel and at the same time it is very expensive … and in Aleppo, winter is very cold.

Another great difficulty is that war is also affecting education, since only a few schools and universities have been able to start the school year. And even these few have become inaccessible to the poorest children and youth who can no longer afford to pay for their studies. So we are looking at the possibility of being able to help some children who were left without school to support them with their studies; thank God there is a small group of enthusiastic young people who are keen to give us a hand with this.

So far we have been helping some families with basic needs but already it is becoming almost impossible for us, because we have no money ….

It is also true that other congregations and organizations are helping, but they cannot cope as well.

But we not only desire to provide material assistance; there is also an urgent need for spiritual and moral assistance. Many people, especially the youth, come to us for support. They are desperate because of the situation and have nowhere to turn to. That’s why we are conducting various training and recreational activities that help them in this regard, and keeps their hope alive. But for this also, we need help to create these environments that we believe are very, very important to keep the spirit strong.

We request help from all those who pity the situation of the Syrians and who would like to help us to help them … thus sharing in the unique mission of Christ’s love for the needy and becoming instruments of God’s mercy towards His people .

Our commitment is to continue to assess each case, to continue to visit those affected, comforting them spiritually, taking note of their urgent needs in view of the help needed, making our benefactors also participants in all this work.

So we ask: help us to help others! “The charity of Christ urges us!”

Fr. David Fernandez, IVE (Missionary in Aleppo)

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