Aleppo pastor: truce broken “thousands” of times, rockets keep on falling and killing

“Although fighting is less intense, many groups do not respect the truce,” says Fr Ibrahim. Prices keep rising, and the Syrian lira is in a free-fall. On 13 May, an ecumenical service will see the consecration of Syria and Aleppo to the Immaculate Heart of Mary as a token for peace. The Church continues to help victims by providing food, health care, and money.

Aleppo (AsiaNews) – Bombardments “have eased” but violence continues. “Sadly, there is no real truce”. Whilst “fighting is not as intense as last week, the ceasefire has been broken thousands of time. Some rockets fell in our area,” said Fr Alsabagh Ibrahim, 44, a Franciscan who is pastor at St Francis Latin Church in Aleppo.

Over the past few days, Syria’s so-called northern capital has been the scene of intense fighting. “Although it is less intense, many groups do not respect the truce,” Fr Ibrahim said. “Two days ago, a rocket hit a building, killing a woman and her children. We are still counting the victims.”

The government and rebels had worked out a partial truce under US and Russian pressure on 5 May, and extended it two days ago until midnight tomorrow (11 May). However, the Islamic State (IS) group and the al-Nusra Front, a local al Qaeda offshoot, were not included.

More than 300 people have been killed in two weeks of fighting, accentuating an already dismal humanitarian crisis. Now UN sources fear that the ongoing fighting in the northern city and province will have “catastrophic effects” and spark a mass exodus of some 400,000 people towards the Turkish border.

"People and car traffic are not yet back to normal,” Fr Ibrahim said. “The Syrian lira has also collapsed with speculation leading to rising prices, which can fluctuate on an hourly basis, especially for food.”

In the meantime, Christians are preparing for “the solemn consecration of Syria, particularly Aleppo, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary" next week, on 13 May, at St Francis Latin Parish Church.

The heads of various Christian communities, bishops, priests and ordinary believers “will meet at the church for the rosary on Friday at 5.30 pm. This will be followed by a Mass at 6 pm with the consecration to Mary,” Fr Ibrahim said. “We shall call upon her to bless and protect us, and enlighten the minds of those who cannot find peace and continue to sow violence and hatred."

This consecration follows the day of shared prayer held on 8 May during which a message from Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, was read, citing the “pope’s intention.”

For the clergyman, “the latter was a source of great consolation. We felt united with the universal Church. The ceremony was also attended by the families of victims of the recent violence, who prayed with us for peace."

Meanwhile, work helping war victims continues. “As I speak to you,” the priest said, “I see the volunteers preparing food packages to be distributed this month. We started helping 600 Roman Catholic families; now we have reached 2,000 from all the rites, even Orthodox.”

“We also provide health care as far as possible and have set aside money to pay electricity bills and bank debt. This money has helped many families to pay mortgage payments, avoiding the foreclosure on the house."