War is a terrible agony. The children especially, being the most vulnerable, suffer greatly.
A distressed teacher told us that the kids, during their recess, do not speak about anything else: “My mom could not wash our clothes because we had no water. That’s why I did not come to school…” “In my neighborhood we have had no power for two weeks…” “Yesterday a missile fell on my neighbor’s house and many died. I saw them from the balcony…” These are not conversation topics suitable for these little ones, but this has been their situation for the last 3 years.
They have forgotten about running around in the plaza and about the games in the playground; they take turns in guessing what weapons are being using during the bombardments; they collect figurines no longer, but rather bullets. When it is evening, the darkness suddenly interrupts their games and they are forced to go to bed very early due to lack of power. Startled by explosions and overcome by continuous fear, they find it difficult to go to sleep. They sleep peacefully only if they are nestled tightly within the arms of their mother, even though they are a bit grown up for it.
What to say about children who are sleeping under a tent on the sidewalk because they have lost their home? Or they move from one relative to another because they have lost their parents. For many of them the war will leave irreparable moral consequences and wounds.
Yet it is curious –and almost miraculous– they still want to smile. They have something special that shines in their eyes and makes them resemble angels. It is the light of faith, even though as a seed, which gives strength and courage to this people laboring under circumstances of martyrdom.
It so happened that a missile fell on a building where a family with 3 children lived, an episode which is repeated daily in Christian neighborhoods. No one was injured. Trembling, they began to clean and collect the debris. The youngest child whispered softly as he swept the glass fragments: “Thank God! Thank God!”
A 6 year old girl was hit by a stray bullet while she was playing at home. The bullet went through the window and entered into her arm, breaking the elbow. It missed the vital organs by a few centimeters. They attended to her and put a bandage. Her mother, seeking to comfort her in her pain, said, “Did you see how Jesus protected you? It was nothing. The bullet only broke your elbow.” The girl responded with radiant conviction: “I know that Jesus protected me, mom. It was he who diverted the bullet. That is why he has a hole in his hand”.
In a pastoral center, they prayed for peace with a group of children, and symbolically, they released two doves, predicting that they would fly to heaven and bring back the much desired peace in Aleppo … Since then, one of the children wakes up every morning with the question: “Mom, have the doves returned”? With each passing day, she keeps repeating the same question, distressed but with tireless hope: “Are you sure, mom, that they have not come back”?
The doves will come back bringing peace. And the children will see them.
Missionaries in Aleppo