Assad "maybe" open to dialogue. In Aleppo young Christians offer their lives for the poor
Aleppo (AsiaNews) - Bashar al-Assad may participate in the international peace conference scheduled for 10 June in Geneva. This was reported by Sergey Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister. For the diplomat, the Syrian president has agreed "in principle" to the opportunity to sit at a negotiating table to reach an agreement with the opposition, which, however, has not yet replied. Yesterday, Mouath Ahmad Al-Khatib, former president of the Syrian National Coalition proposed a peace plan which provides for the "safe" departure of Assad from power, with guarantees that he will not be hunted down or put on trial. For al-Khatib this will start a smooth transition to full democracy also in agreement with the former members of the regime. The current leader of the Coalition, points out, however, that the al-Khatib initiative is personal and that has yet to pass the scrutiny of the various rebel groups, which are still pushing for a war against Assad, putting pressure on Western countries - France, Britain and United States - to send weapons. While the Western and Arab countries discuss the future of Syria and whether or not to send arms to the rebels, the Catholic Church continues its work discreetly and silently among the poor and homeless.
Interviewed by AsiaNews, Mgr. Antoine Audo, Chaldean Archbishop of Aleppo and president of Caritas Syria speaks of the "extraordinary vitality of young Catholics." Facing the risks of the war, thousands of young people work in local Caritas canteens or shelters, with great attention to spiritual activities, which often also include members of other religions.
"Every day - says Msgr. Audo - we seek to fulfill our mission wherever there is need. There are several hundred young people helping us. Together with their peers they are active in many charitable activities." For the prelate the Syrian young peoples commitment is moving and extraordinary "for a city like Aleppo, which increasingly is described by the media as a place on the brink of destruction, in chaos, of inter-religious hatred." "Last May 17 - he continues - more than a thousand young people of the parishes of Aleppo gathered to prepare for the World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro." Until now it is unclear if any of them will be able to make the trip. In recent months, few have been able to leave the country and re-enter without any problems. "Every two months - he explains - the young people organized a day of reflection and activities to prepare spiritually for this great event." Bishop Audo praises their care in organizing celebrations, the beauty of their songs, the attention that these young people devote to newcomers. While the air rings with the screech of howitzers and gunshots.
The Catholic and Orthodox Churches, were the only authoritative and neutral realities present in Aleppo and in the majority of the Syrian territories. This awareness has prompted priests and prelates to ask for an urgent local synod of the Catholic Church in Aleppo. "The young priests - explains - Msgr. Audo - have been asking for this for some time, we want to understand how to be united in this difficult period, to give hope to the people and to our faithful".
Until now the only organization able to distribute food and offer hospitality to the thousands of displaced people in the province of Aleppo is the local Caritas, which operates through the parishes and convents scattered in the various provinces. Recently the Church has organized a training day for all of the centers responsible for the care of poor and displaced people. "There were over 100 young people - said Msgr. Audo - and this shows how many discreet and gratuitous initiatives there are quiet in this city, in the midst of the danger of war, death, of being kidnapped, robbed, but it goes on, with faith and hope. " (S.C.)