Aleppo, married in war: faith in Christ and the Church stronger than the temptation to emigrate
The Latin parish on the initiative of Fr. Ibrahim launched a project to help young Christian couples. The desire for peace and the pursuit of a job to contribute to the development of the country. The fear of remaining without resources necessary for survival. AsiaNews has met two of them and shares their story.
Aleppo (AsiaNews) - The end of the war and the search for a job that will allow them to "contribute to the development" of the country battered by years of violence and terror; the support of a "growing" faith throughout this time and the "temptation" ever present, to emigrate if the basic resources to survive so far guaranteed "by the precious help of the Church", should be lacking. These are the words of two young Christian families in Aleppo, who spoke to AsiaNews about the drama of a conflict that has entered the seventh year, the still-distant prospects of peace and the efforts of the local Catholic leaders to support the poorest and most disadvantaged. Both are part of the aid program for young couples, launched in recent months by Fr. Ibrahim Alsabagh, a 44-year-old Franciscan, guardian and parish priest of the Latin community.
Fr. Ibrahim explaines, presenting the initiative, supported by Pope Francis with a donation of 100,000 euros during the spiritual retreat in preparation for Easter, the family represents "the future of a society"; above all "in a context of war". Hence the will to support the "material and spiritual" plan young couples of what was once the metropolis of northern Syria.
Over the past few weeks, about 740 families, formed after 2012, received "aid including food, medicines and electricity supply." Part of the donations were also shared with needy Muslims, in a context of charity that embraces everyone regardless of the religious faith they profess. "Within this project – adds the pastor of Aleppo - there is an attempt to promote permanent formation meetings to help support couples even after the wedding.
The first of the two families met by AsiaNews is formed by Bassam Salloum, 31, and 29-year-old Miryam Mahaj, both with university degrees in French Literature. The couple married on August 22, 2015 and have a daughter, named Tiya, who is about to turn one.
Bassam and Miryam met in 2014, during what was perhaps the darkest period for the city of Aleppo. The two young people had long thought of emigrating and getting married abroad, but the local Church has always supported them - financially and spiritually - along the way and for this they decided to stay. For a couple of years the parish contributes to the rent of the apartment, the purchase of food and the supply of electricity. "Our hope for the future - they say - is that the war will end and we can live our work and contribute to the development of our country." However, there is a strong "fear" that the conflict can "last for a long time" and that the Church "will run out of resources: how can we survive," they add, "without his help?" In these years of war and violence "our faith has grown: we got married - they say - in full conflict, without knowing if anyone could help us. We only counted on God's protection. " At a time of particular crisis they came to the parish, explaining their economic and family situation. They did not know Father Ibrahim, but from then on "the priest supported and encouraged us." In order to meet the needs of the family, Bassam has two activities: at school, as a teacher, and in the parish, where he is active in social outreach. Every day he works up to 12 hours, or even more if needed. One month's money, she confesses, "is enough to survive for three weeks." The temptation to flee abroad is strong, because "our whole family" has already emigrated, but "faith in God, Providence, and the support of the Church allow us to remain in Aleppo."
A difficult childhood, with the loss of their respective fathers at a young age, unites the second couple: Khalil Mstrih, 32, who graduated from college and today runs a pastry shop and 25-year-old Diala Dib, a graduate in economics and today employed at the parish reception. The two married on July 24, 2016. "We love each other a lot," they tell, "and even though we see no end to this war, we decided to marry. We had nothing when we left our homes: right now we are living in an apartment left free by a family who has emigrated. But if one day they want to return? What will we do? And where will we go? In this house nothing is ours ... We use their objects."
Prior to the war Khalil worked in a pastry shop where he learned the art of confectionery. With the money he saved, he opened up his own business and today speaks of it with great pride. "Because of my father's death," he remembers, "I had to abandon my studies. I was able to do my job without asking anyone for help. Then the war started and everything was lost. " He wanted to emigrate abroad, but the idea of leaving his mother alone behind him, stopped him and, for this reason, he decided to stay. "We have great confidence in God - emphasize Khalil and Diala - and if we did not have a strong faith we would never have gotten married. I only had a dollar when I met her, I did not know how I would build a family. It is God who helped us and guided us in this journey. " They have not yet completely abandoned the idea of emigration, of escape because "we would no longer be forced to beg, but we could live off our work."
Thanks to the help of Fr. Ibrahim, Khalil has found some investors who will help him to reopen a new pastry shop, though any earnings will be limited. Rent cost is high and every month there is a risk of not earning enough money to cover the expenses. Not being able to hire staff, his wife decided to help him in the business. "We have a lot of patience - concludes the couple - and the Church's help is vital in this context. We only hope the war can end soon. " (DS)