Vicar of Aleppo: Christians ready to celebrate Christmas but the situation in Idlib is scary
Mgr Georges Abou Khazen is taking part "with devotion and meditation" in Advent celebrations. However, there is little optimism and a lot of fatigue in the city about the end of the conflict. The Latin parish is providing clothing 900 children, including Muslims.
Aleppo (AsiaNews) – The Christian community "wants to celebrate Christmas" and participate "with devotion and meditation" to Advent services, but an atmosphere of "little optimism and great fatigue" still prevails in the city because expectations of an imminent end to the conflict appear premature, said Mgr Georges Abou Khazen, Apostolic Vicar of Aleppo of the Latins.
The prelate spoke to AsiaNews about the situation in Syria’s northern metropolis, which was until December 2016, a major battleground. Recently, it experienced a rebel chemical attack that brought back the memory of the darkest and most tragic days of the war.
At present, the city’s "streets and squares are decorated” and “Aleppo Municipality put up a big tree” in the downtown area as token of its closeness to the Christian community.
"We are planning novenas, confessions,” Mgr Abou Khazen said. “Children, young people and seniors are taking part in the services. Moreover, despite limited resources, we are trying to give a gift to the little ones and the poor."
The vicar of Aleppo hopes that Christmas will be "a time of celebration", even if the people "show greater fatigue and less optimism than they did some time ago about the end of the Syrian conflict," which broke out in March 2011.
"Despite everything we want to celebrate Christmas and spread a feeling of joy and hope", he said. Yet, the situation in the last rebel stronghold of Idlib "is very scary and the situation on the ground seems to get more and more complicated".
In his message, the prelate urges the faithful to "look up, beyond material hardship and entrust ourselves to Christ, the true source of salvation."
In Aleppo, in this period of Advent, the Latin parish is involved a number of initiatives to help and show solidarity to the neediest. One is giving clothing to 900 children (pictured) over several days. For the holiday, shoes, sweaters and pyjamas are given to the youngest children who attend catechism class.
This, Fr Ibrahim Alsabagh, the parish priest, noted, "does not stop with Christians but also embraces Muslim children for whom there is always a place and a small gift."
Yesterday, the Franciscan priest met the families of the children attending catechism and told them that "this is only a small deed, a token of God’s love" that comes with "the greatest gift that he has made to humanity, his own son Jesus Christ." For Fr Ibrahim, Christians in Aleppo are "a voice" that bears witness to "the presence of God".
Handing out clothing and more is not the only thing. “All the members of the community support the projects undertaken, both those still centred on meeting emergency needs and those focused on reconstruction.”
“I want to thank all those who are helping and supporting us through material aid and prayers,” said the clergyman, hopeful that this will be a Christmas “of peace and serenity".