The Chaldean archbishop describes the project of a center for the elderly inspired by Pope Francis. A place of meeting and support for the victims of poverty and conflict. The local church provides scholarships for 6 thousand students, to help families in a "concrete and fair" way. The dramatic" consequence if the disappearance of Christians in the Middle East, but the West is indifferent.
Aleppo (AsiaNews) - In a context of war and violence, broken families and young people looking for a better life abroad, "the elderly who can not escape and remain tied" to memories of a lifetime” have been relegated to the margins. This is why “our diocese wanted to take up Pope Francis’ invitation" and in this Jubilee of Mercy that draws to a close we thought of "a memory, a monument for seniors”, says Msgr. Antoine Audo, Chaldean Archbishop of Aleppo, explaining the "living memory" that the diocese wants to leave at the end of the Holy Year, “to put the call to charity into practice".
"We are negotiating the purchase of an apartment - said the prelate – on the ground floor and with access to the road, to facilitate the elderly." A shelter "born following the call and the example of the Pope in Rome" and that it is really "a testimony of mercy" in this land that is both "beloved and tormented". A place he adds, where the elderly "more or less alone and abandoned" may "take a shower, grab a coffee, receive treatment or share their time with others”.
A gesture "that we are making on behalf of the whole diocese," said Msgr. Audo, to revive the values of education, hospitality, the common good, to tell these last remaining seniors that "they are not alone" and that "there is a church that embraces them." Right now, he adds, negotiations are "well advanced " to for the purchase of a structure "already identified" in the city. "I have clear ideas – he continues - and I have already provided funds for the purchase, combined with the voluntary contribution of experts and lawyers".
The "first step" has been fulfilled, and in the near future he does not rule out the possibility of asking for help and support from abroad, from the faithful in the West and in the world, to provide additional services and opportunities for the elderly. "A center that will be built in a predominantly Christian neighborhood – Msgr. Audo continues - but that does not exclude the possibility to accommodate Muslims, although this must be done properly. In accordance with their needs and peculiarities ".
In addition to the "monument to the mercy", the Syrian Church - and that of Aleppo in particular - have promoted several initiatives in favor of the population in the last five years of conflict. "Among the priorities - says Msgr. Audo - is medical care for the sick, which costs a great deal. There are many needy who come to us seeking help”. What’s more there is the right to education for children and young people "who must be able to go to school" despite the war.
And just in terms of education, the Chaldean Church has promoted an initiative that involves students in 10 Catholic schools by providing scholarships, especially to young people who come from poor families. "This is a critical aspect - says the prelate - and is tied hand in glove to the crisis triggered by the war. Many families once the middle class, not rich but wealthy, are now destitute and cannot even escape the current conditions. While not wishing to give up on the idea of allowing their children to study they can not cope with costs and at the same time are reluctant to accept alms out of dignity and pride. "
That is why the leaders of the diocese agreed to establish scholarships thanks to which, Msgr. Audo says "we can provide education to young people, without humiliating or hurting the pride of their families”. A "constant and discreet help," he says, needs to "mitigate, at least in part, the effects of war and general impoverishment. This way we guarantee at least 6 thousand young men and women, boys and girls, the right to education.
This combines ecclesiastical "and psychological assistance" programs to alleviate "the trauma of the conflict" and "training" aimed at "educators who have to operate with those who have been traumatized". "These initiatives - said the prelate - involve Caritas and many humanitarian organizations which are doing an outstanding job providing education with food, medicines, money to pay the rent, basic necessities". The drama of the war, he adds, "has involved the whole city and death, destruction, suffering has touched every family. Violence and destruction are not the prerogative of any one sector, the east or the west, they relate to Aleppo in all its complexity. "