The priest tells of the difficulties of a city facing many emergencies: food, education and health for Covid. Prices are constantly rising, sanctions are inhumane and the population is starving. The goal of opening a hot canteen for the poorest. To young people: in a critical phase, getting married is “a heroic act of faith”.
Aleppo (AsiaNews) – An eductional emergency, a the food crisis, the Covid-19 pandemic, a housing problem, especially for young married couples, there are many obstacles to Syria’s possible recovery from a bloody and protracted war. Fr. Ibrahim Alsabagh, 50-year-old Franciscan, guardian and priest of the Latin parish of Aleppo, has written “Letter to friends” in which he recounts the dramatic situation facingthe population of what was once the country’s economic and commercial capital . In the letter sent to AsiaNews, the parish priest points the finger at the sanctions he defines as “inhuman” and “used unfairly” with the sole result of “making everyone suffer, especially the weakest”.
The sanctions, explains the priest, “affect the correct functioning of hospitals and medical equipment, paralyzing” health care. Added to this is the “lack of electricity” which today leads to “not being able to turn on an air conditioner or a fan”, just as in winter “it is not possible to turn on the heating”. “The reality – he continues – is slowly worsening and becoming more and more oppressive, making living conditions very difficult”.
Prices, continues Fr. Ibrahim, “they are constantly rising and the population is starving”. An example is the price of fruit and vegetables, with seasonal products “inaccessible” for the poorest. “Imagine – he writes – that half of an employee’s monthly salary is not enough to buy pasta and vegetables”. In response, the Church “has returned to promoting the distribution of food parcels or to pay small amounts of money to contribute to the purchase of groceries”. And the next goal is to “open a hot canteen” for the homeless or the elderly most in need.
As in the rest of the country, in Aleppo the situation remains critical more for hunger and lack of work than for Covid-19. As denounced by personalities of the Syrian Church, including the apostolic vicar of Aleppo and the Maronite archbishop of Damascus, the Caesar Act, which affects the population along with inflation, has also worsened the ordinary punitive measures. A situation that gives even more value to the soli.darity of Pope Francis, with his appeals for peace.
In a period of global emergency triggered by the coronavirus, Aleppo and Syria “have received a limited number of vaccines”, accuses the priest, and the sick “prefer to die at home, without saying they are infected, also because they have no money to pay for the care”. “Unfortunately – he continues – we have new infected, and therefore new deaths, very few immunized people”.
The pandemic emergency is also linked to the closure of schools “for two years now” and to an “increasingly serious” educational emergency. Also skyrocketing “rental prices” for houses and apartments, “and Christian families, especially new ones with children, live in rented houses and have a very limited number of resources”.
For the future, the priority of pastoral action is aimed at young people and married couples in a historical phase in which “getting married is a heroic act of faith”. “Since these young people are our future – concludes the priest – they have become our priority: they are among those most in need of material and spiritual assistance, so that they can feel loved, supported, safe and for this reason they are not alone” . From Gethsemane to St. Anthony of Padua, patron saint of the province of the Middle East, passing through St. Francis, from their example we find the strength to continue the mission.