The new wing of a Catholic-funded hospital in war-torn Aleppo will open its doors to the public this month, part of an initiative by the Hungarian branch of the Order of Malta to help persecuted Christians and victims of the Syrian civil war.
A photo exhibition detailing the devastation of the war and the charitable responses to it is be held at Saint Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest from next Monday until February to promote this national campaign.
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It features never-before-seen images by Hungarian photojournalist Istvan Bielik and humanitarian specialist Daniel Solymári that shine a light on broken parts of the city, and how people there are rebuilding their lives.
Like the new hospital annex, this is the fruit of a collaborative partnership between the Hungarian Charity Service of the Order of Malta and the city’s Eastern Catholic Melkite monastic community.
The hospital is located in Al-Nayrab, in East Aleppo’s impoverished quarter. The Hungarian organization decided to expand the hospital building to double its capacity.
Both projects are part of the politically neutral relief organization’s mission to provide humanitarian and developmental assistance in Syria, where over 100,000 people still lack accessible medical services due to the conflict.
The Melkite community is thriving in this medieval walled city that once stood as a thriving metropolis but has since been reduced to rubble in much of its eastern side, a former rebel stronghold.
The community has enjoyed the support of Mother Agnes Mariam de la Croix, a Carmelite sister of Lebanese origin who rebuilt the ruins of the Mar Yakub monastery of St. James the Mutilated near Damascus in 1994.
It became her mission to develop the Melkite monastic community, whose spirituality is rooted in the Eastern tradition but also stresses a modern and inclusive mentality with a charitable apostolic mission.
The Hungarian branch of the Order of Malta has for decades been present with its relief programs in the Middle East and Africa. In 2016 it launched a large-scale medical relief program East Aleppo’s war-torn regions.
At present the only available services are those available at the mobile medical unit operated by the religious community of Mar Yakub and the Order of Malta serving the isolated villages around Aleppo.
This work is being performed by the humanitarian co-workers of the Syrian Mar Yakub religious community in close collaboration with Mother Agnes Mariam de la Croix.
Mother Agnes has been living with constant death threats and hasn’t been able to return to her monastery for four years now since she is a prime target of various terrorist groups. She has received numerous awards for her outstanding achievements. In 2014 she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
During Advent 2018, the Hungarian branch of the Order of Malta embarked on a campaign to afford a chance for all to share in prayer and spiritual solidarity for those who cannot take an active role in its humanitarian project.