Fr Ibrahim: Christmas in Aleppo, from the trauma of war to hope and solidarity
People are worried about economic instability, corruption and “hidden but active” religious fundamentalism. The reactivation of water and electrical supplies and Islamic-Christian reconciliation are a source of faith in the future. The Church has helped 400 orphaned Muslim children. Torn apart by war, two siblings and their family have a story to tell.
Aleppo (AsiaNews) – Fr Ibrahim Alsabagh, 44, is a Franciscan, and the guardian and pastor of the Latin parish of Aleppo. He released a long letter of good wishes to the city’s Christian community, which he also sent to AsiaNews.
In it, he talks about a Christmas of light and shadows, of joy for the return of "electricity and water" during most of the day, but also of hardships caused by "economic instability" and "hidden but active" religious fundamentalism.
The current situation “is improving little by little,” the clergyman writes, but "there are still so many open wounds in the hearts" and minds of "traumatised" people, women, children and seniors who still suffer, day and night, from injuries to the body from bullets and bombs, and to the mind, from traumas and constant fear that have “endured for years".
Corruption and economic instability are the main topic of conversation, with the value of the dollar "falling very low, suddenly", leaving "people perplexed".
This should have helped people by boosting the Syrian lira and the local purchasing power; instead, businesses "increased prices" to get a higher return on their recent investments. Ordinary people “lost out.” Sadly, the priest notes, “The poor will always pay for this situation of instability".
"Public sector wages have increased, but not public servants’ purchasing power,” Fr Ibrahim explains. “Thus, with the decline of the dollar and the euro, foreign donations lost value. Today we can help fewer people and families, compared to what we could do until a few days ago."
Fundamentalism is another sore point left by the war, even though it was already present in Aleppo “before this crisis,” says the clergyman.
"This fundamentalism covered up so much rejection, so much contempt and even so much hatred, an attitude generated by ignorance, but also by the lack of charity and respect for others.”
“This war has succeeded in dividing people and social life that much more. It [fundamentalism] does not show itself by launching rockets, but by continuing to work underground.”
Faced with such a drift towards extremism, the Christian minority has not opted for an attitude of closure, has not taken up arms, and has always remained "a bridge of reconciliation" in society.
"The Church in Aleppo is proof of this, whatever its rites, as evinced by the many charities and institutions that help our Muslim brothers as much as our Christian children" starting with the Open Hospitals initiative.
Another example is the project by the Latin parish to adopt 400 Muslim children of families forced from the suburbs into the city centre.
"We are talking about toddlers, from birth to two years. We help them each month, with milk and diapers. We also plan to adopt 200 Muslim children with birth defects: we help financially their families each month to provide for their needs."
The Church’s action also meets the needs of Christian families and young people, who represent the future of the country’s communities. The story of two siblings, a boy and a girl, can best illustrate this.
The girl saw “a rocket blow up her mother into pieces on the balcony of her home. After the incident, she couldn’t go home, and they had to rent another house. For the past while, the family has been getting a food parcel from us; the parish is also paying her medical bills. They have been helped to pay part of the rent.”
“The boy was also helped to pay for the first year rent on a store and got some money to buy what he needed to start his activity.”
“They came to me, and they told me that they were grateful for what the Church had done for them, both in terms of material as well as spiritual support. They felt she [the Church] was like a mother to them at this time of Advent, which brings us closer to Christmas." (DS)