Syria – An Emergency within an Emergency

(ANS – Aleppo) – “We still don’t know how we will organize ourselves, amidst the cold, the snow and the situation of many buildings after almost 12 years of war. The population urgently needs help”. These were the first words that Fr Alejandro León, Superior of the “Adolescent Jesus” Province of the Middle East (MOR), sent from Aleppo, in Syria, a tormented land, as Pope Francis often defined it, which since Monday last year is even more tortured.

The two very strong earthquakes with epicenter in Kahramanmaraş, in southern Turkey on the north-western border with Syria, which occurred in the night between 5 and 6 February destroyed hundreds of buildings, causing, according to the current provisional count, more than 20 thousand injured and killed more than 5 thousand people. An immense tragedy that once again affects an already very unfortunate area of ​​the planet. An area where war broke out on March 15, 2011, which still today pits the government forces of Bashar al-Assad’s government against a coalition of armed militias defined as rebels. A bloody war that has caused more than 306,000 victims, and 6.6 million refugees abroad and 6.7 million internally displaced persons in the country.

A painful dejavu : the images of Aleppo, Syria’s second largest city, with eight-story buildings completely destroyed, roofs and attics collapsed to the ground, recall one of the fiercest battles of the Syrian civil war, fought right there. Many houses were still dilapidated from the latest bombings, today they are just dust and rubble.

The Sons of Don Bosco of Aleppo immediately took action to give assistance to the first displaced persons, to families taking refuge in the Salesian house. The missionaries are providing assistance with food, blankets and warm clothes. “We have readily welcomed all those who need it. There are already more than 300 people welcomed and helped by the Salesians, collaborators and the whole Salesian Family of Aleppo”, already communicated yesterday, 7 February, the Provincial Delegate of MOR for Social Communication, Fr Pier Jabloyan.

“There is great suffering because people are scared and fear the aftershocks after the big one at 4 in the morning. The earth shook, houses were destroyed and there were many deaths. In addition to this, cold and rain also added to making the displaced feel bad ”testified by Fr Georges Fattal, Director of the Salesian house in Aleppo, who providentially had“ only a few broken windows ”.

Immediately after the tremors, many frightened people automatically sought refuge in the Salesian oratory. “Even before preparing hot meals, we had to calm them down because these people have already suffered war and poverty, now they also have to face the consequences of the earthquake – continued Fr Fattal -. We reminded them that when the Lord was in the middle of the rough sea, he asked his disciples: ‘Why are you afraid?’. He is with us and among us”.

Finally, the Director of the Salesians in Aleppo concluded by urging support for the Syrian population at all levels: “Surely there will be a need for material help for the reconstruction because this earthquake, as violent as we have never seen before, has brought down so many buildings. But first and foremost, we ask you to pray for us.”

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Sources: Missioni Don Bosco, La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana