Fr Ibrahim: Aleppo bearing the cross of embargo, unemployment and isolation
As a result of shortages, power is available only one hour a day. Highways and airport need to re-open; the lack of jobs and resources will stifle the city. Christians continue to emigrate because " There is no future in Syria.” Only Jesus can heal open wounds. People “should get up and do something."
Aleppo (AsiaNews) – The situation is still "very difficult", and residents are ceaselessly bearing a cross, like power shortages that limit supplies to an hour a day, this according to Fr Ibrahim Alsabagh, parish priest at Aleppo’s Latin parish.
Speaking to AsiaNews, he explained that if the northern Syrian city, which was a major battleground in the still ongoing civil war, remains isolated "like Idlib and Hamat" and the "highway and airport are not reopened, the lack of jobs and resources will stifle it. This is unacceptable for life and human dignity.”
The priest is critical of US and Western embargo against the Syrian regime which "perpetuates the suffering of the population". It “limits any chance of a dignified life. It is not acceptable for people to line up four hours in the rain to buy a gas cylinder" or for "newborns, and seniors, to suffer from the cold because they cannot buy heating oil."
Born in Damascus in 1971, the clergyman has helped out people, Christians and Muslims, victimised by the war that has caused almost half a million deaths and displaced more than seven million people.
Ahead of Easter, the priest began a charity drive to help families in difficulty, by providing them with a can of olive oil as a tangible deed of charity and mercy.
After speaking to workers and artisans, "we know that since 15 November the economy is stuck and there is no work,” the Franciscan priest explained.
Some parents, "with tears in their eyes, have told us that they earned less than 25 dollars to feed their children". This is why many are leaving.
"Yesterday a mother came to say goodbye before she left for Canada, with her two young sons who are already in Lebanon".
"She said she didn’t want to go and leave her country but was forced to because there is nothing to survive on. There is no future in Syria.”
"She also noted that the Church helped her and her family, did everything, but the problem is that the chaos that engulfs the city is not ending. For her, the only option was to leave with us in her heart.”
In light of the situation, "which continues to be absurd, we hand out food parcels and help with health care since there is no effective coverage for the sick and pensions for seniors is a symbolic pittance.”
Housing must be rehabilitated. So far about 1,300 homes have been repaired but many more need work to become habitable. The entire city is in need of repairs,” Fr Ibrahim said.
Small business projects are a drop in the bucket as evinced by high levels of unemployment. "We need thousands of projects to get the city get back on its feet, so that people can regain their lost dignity, put food on the table and earn a living from the sweat of their brow.”
“There are still many open wounds,” but there is a lot of trust "in our doctor, Jesus, who has the grace to heal us from all illnesses and wounds. This is no time to weep. We should get up and do something. We are proud to do in our lives and bodies what is lacking from Christ’s suffering."