Aleppo, Syria 15.05.2015
Heavy battles are expected – a religious sister reports on the situation of Christians in Aleppo
Königstein/Aleppo, 15.05.2015. “Pray for Aleppo. People are fearful as never before in recent years.” With these heartrending words the Armenian Catholic religious Sister Annie Demerjian appealed on Wednesday to the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). “People are afraid of heavy fighting”, “Thousands have already left the city, both Christian and Muslim. We are preparing ourselves for the worst”. So says this religious sister, who has been holding out for years in this city, still so fiercely contested between the Syrian government and the rebels. “The Christians are taking with them everything they can carry and are seeking refuge in the coastal region or in the “Valley of the Christians”. I do not know how many have already left, but there are many thousands of them. We sense this, because the Christian quarters have noticeably emptied out.”
The situation of the Christians in Aleppo in northern Syria – once a city of millions – has recently deteriorated yet further.On Friday 10 April – Good Friday in the Eastern Churches – the predominantly Christian quarter of Suleymaniye came under heavy bombardment from the rebels. “The Christians of Aleppo are still in shock today, so heavy were the attacks. People are startled in fear at every loud noise. Many people once again found themselves living among the ruins. One woman saw her own children lying motionless among the rubble, but fortunately, they had survived. But others lost their lives in the attacks. On Easter Sunday we buried many of our brothers and sisters. We hurried from one funeral to the next. It was so sad”, Sister Annie continues. “One entire family was wiped out; another family lost their mother and two sons. The force of the explosion flung one of the sons out of the house, leaving him lying dead, hanging on the power cables. His mother and brother were blown to bits by the bombs. Their relatives are still finding parts of the bodies among the rubble and burying them. Can you imagine the suffering their bereaved families are going through? Those who have survived are deeply wounded inwardly, in their inner souls. But we have grown accustomed to the bombs and to death. People keep going, with God’s help.”
For years now, Sister Annie with her team has been helping the embattled people of Aleppo with the basic necessities of everyday life, such as food and clothing. She is supported in this work by ACN. “Without the benefactors of ACN we could not do what we are doing. May God bless you. It gives the people here a little bit of security and hope to know that they have not been forgotten. But above all I ask you to pray for Aleppo and for Syria. May God enlighten the hearts of those in power so that they can find a way to peace. Otherwise I do not know how long the people can continue to endure it all.”
In the last few weeks a number of Christian churches in Aleppo have also been severely damaged, including the Armenian Orthodox and the Maronite churches.OnFriday of last week (8.5.) the Melkite Cathedral of the Dormition of Our Lady was once again badly damaged and can now no longer be used for worship. ACN understands from the Melkite patriarchate in Damascus, that the bombardments are the work of extremist Islamist opposition groups, including the “Islamic State” (IS) and the Al-Nusra Front. According to the patriarchate, prior to the war there were 18,000 Melkite Christians living in Aleppo alone. Today there are no more than 12,000.
ACN has been particularly active in helping in the Middle East. Since the end of 2011 the charity has given over 12 million Euros to help the Christians in Syria and Iraq. And recently ACN made over 2 million Euros available for humanitarian aid, which was also used to help the people of Aleppo.
Oliver Maksan, firstname.lastname@example.org