03/29/2018, 14.30
SYRIA
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Apostolic Vicar: Peace still distant this Easter in Aleppo

Msgr. Georges Abou Khazen describes the climate of Holy Week in a city at war for eight years. Powers and foreign interests are stripping the country bare and dividing the spoils. Confirmations symbol of a living community struggling to survive. On Good Friday a nighttime procession through the churches of the city.

Aleppo (AsiaNews) - The Christian community is experiencing the celebrations of the Holy Week that prepare for Easter "in a mixed climate" of "hope", so that we can soon arrive "at peace" but also of  "skepticism", because we still do not know "how it will really end". These are the words of the Apostolic Vicar of Aleppo of the Latins Msgr. Georges Abou Khazen speaking to AsiaNews.  He cannot mask his concern "for the new foreign intervention [that of Turkey, in Afrin] in the north of the country". "We hope for the best - he adds - but the feeling is that they are stripping this poor country bare and are dividing its spoils".

The prayer intentions of the faithful, says the prelate, are "always reaching for peace. When the weapons cease, then it will be possible to start working again and return to a more peaceful, serene life, as it was before the conflict ". "It is moving - the prelate continues - to see all these people who gather to participate in prayers, celebrations, rituals with a single desire that unites them: to celebrate peace". This, he adds, "will be the eighth Easter of war. However, the hope remains that the testimony of Christ the Savior can instill a renewed optimism and that, after the Via Crucis, the Resurrection will come".

The Syrian conflict recently entered its eight year and continues to claim victims among the civilian population. Aleppo, once the economic and commercial capital of Syria, today bears the marks of this long and bloody journey: many industries and workshops, the heart of local production, are reduced to rubble. Thousands of families have fled and the Christian community itself has shrunk by more than two-thirds. The future remains an unknown factor, especially for young people.

In a context of violence and devastation, in recent years the Church has launched several projects to support and help the population. These include campaigns to keep the city clean, aid to young married couples, from food parcels to funds for electricity supplies, summer camps for hundreds of children, contributions to cover health care costs and medicines, visits, exams, treatments. They are all initiatives in favor of the needy, which in many cases the people of Aleppo - for years the epicenter of the Syrian conflict until the liberation in December 2016 – could not access.

But from a tormented city there are also signs of hope: on March 18, 35 young people from the Latin parish received the sacrament of Confirmation from the hands of the Apostolic Vicar, together with the local parish priest Fr. Ibrahim Alsabagh. The sign of a living community that wants to grow and witness to the presence of Christ, source of peace and salvation. "The number of the faithful - underlines Msgr. Georges - in these years has diminished but ours remains a living Church. Seeing the assiduousness with which people attend the functions is a source of hope. If the Lord will save us and give us a future, it will also be thanks to this living community ".

"We have experienced death and destruction - says the prelate - but at the same time we have lived great testimonies of love and solidarity. The war continues and new victims die every day, an exaggerated number of deaths. People continue to flee from the country. Faced with all this suffering we cannot remain deaf and impassive, even after eight years we cannot resign ourselves to the logic of violence and war".

Faith is stronger than death, underlines the prelate, that is why the ceremonies are always crowded with the faithful. Among the most significant moments of the coming days "the Christians of Aleppo will visit all the churches of the city following the rites of Good Friday. A sort of procession that winds through the streets of the city and will end late at night ". "On the occasion of Easter - he concludes - I renew the invitation to pray for this community of ours, which is alive. That the Risen Christ give peace to Aleppo and all of Syria. "(DS)

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