In a letter to AsiaNews, Caritas’s communications director talks about the message of hope Pope Francis expressed for her country. Small deeds, like preparing a meal together, are a sign that peace is possible, that it is only a matter of time. Tomorrow 175 Caritas workers are set to meet for a training course.
Damascus (AsiaNews) – Preparing a meal, together multiplying one’s efforts – going beyond bread and fishes – in order to help many people, understanding that peace is possible, just a matter of time, when mercy and mutual help come together are some of the reasons to hope for Syria’s future, says Sandra Awad, head of communication for Caritas Syria in a letter sent to AsiaNews.
The 38-year-old married mother of two knows what war is from her daily experiences. Given the limited resources available to deal with this tragedy, the most important thing is for people in Syria to “help each other and support each other more”.
Meanwhile, Caritas is putting the final touches to a meeting tomorrow in the coastal city of Tarsus that will bring together 175 charity workers and volunteers for a few days of training.
This effort fits with Pope Francis‘s peace video message released as part of Caritas Internationalis’s peace campaign titled Syria: peace is possible.
“As Syrians,” Awad writes, “we need such a message from such a person to give us strength and hope to be able to continue despite all the bad circumstances we are living under”.
Here is the Caritas communication director’s letter:
I have always watched Pope Francis visits and activities to support needy people and listened to his messages of love and solidarity on TV and social media, and I have always been touched by his modesty and his closeness to people who love him and respect him a lot, but few days ago when I heard his message supporting Caritas campaign for peace in Syria, it has another impact on me as this time he was talking about my people and about my Syria . . .
I was very touched by his message, and I kept repeating it many times. There is someone whose heart is sad because of the war in my country, and who wants to take an action and encourage others to work for peace, and this person is not anyone, it is the Holy Father who is respected and heard by the whole world. As Syrians, we need such a message from such a person to give us strength and hope to be able to continue despite all the bad circumstances we are living under, and as Christians who stayed in Syria despite all the threats around us from fanatic armed groups, we need some encouragement to stay attached to our country and our oriental roots, and as Caritas Syria workers, who go every day to their work place under the danger of mortar shells, it was very important to us to hear the Holy Father joining us in our campaign and saying with confidence: Peace is possible in Syria . . .
Few days ago, I was attending the mess, when the priest started his sermon explaining about the miracle of the five loaves and two fish that Jesus did and gave food to hundreds of hungry people. Actually I didn’t hear anything of his explanation, I found myself thinking of the five years of war in my country, which led to the poverty and hunger of most of my people. I remembered a family who told me how they eat only one meal per day and try to keep some of it for the next day in case they couldn’t find anything to eat. I also remembered when I asked a family who was wealthy before the war: When did you eat meat for the last time? The mother and the father looked at each other and laughed, making me feel how naïve my question was. Eating meat in my country has become a dream!!!
A lot of sad stories came back to me while I was listening to the priest, but suddenly an idea came to my mind and gave me some hope. The miracle of loaves and fish is still happening in Syria . . . International aid organizations and charities are all active on the ground and are helping poor people. A lot of families are depending on this aid to survive. We are one of these active organizations and we are trying to reduce the impact of war on Syrian families by supporting them in many ways, distribution of food and clothes vouchers, rental support, medical care, elderlies support, education and psychosocial support for children. . . We offer various kind of support, but we always feel that our sources of fund are very limited facing all this tragedy and huge needs around us (poverty inside Syria reached about 84% of the population), but we try our best, with the two fish and five loaves that we have in hands, to help as much people as we can.
Syria is sick now, it needs the support of humanitarian organization and international community to be able to survive, the miracle of the five loaves and two fish to be able to feed thousands of its hungry children and the mercy from the whole world to put an end to this war and start to recover. . .
Pope Francis talked about the year of mercy in his message, which is the most important thing that we are living between each other in Syria. War made us poor, and poverty taught us mercy. People help each other and support each other more. For example, during Ramadan, a lot of charities and young volunteers, Muslim and Christians were cooking in the streets and distributing hot meals on needy people. Caritas workers participated in one of these campaigns near the gate of the Omayyad Mosque in Damascus, It was a food campaign held by “Saed Volunteer Group”, and together we prepared more than 15000 meals to be distributed at the end of the day on poor families and charities. Despite of the great fatigue, the stress and the high temperature on that day, all the faces were smiling, and the hearts were full of the pleasure of cooperation and the joy of giving . . .
This is our real Syria with its beautiful face, Syria is not only war, it is conviviality and mercy between Muslims and Christians, it is giving away the widow’s mite to the other in need, it is the multiplication of five loaves and two fish by faith, hope and love.
We appreciate the wonderful message of the Holy Father, which gave us strength, and the big effort, which has been made by Caritas Internationalis to prepare and launch this campaign, some people there were working for this campaign as if Syria was their own country that they love the most. We would like to thank them all and say: With people like you, peace is not just possible in Syria, it is certain, and it is just a matter of time . . .
* Caritas Syria communications director