Despite drop in violence, Syria continues to suffer

Despite drop in violence, Syria continues to suffer

“I wish one day for the resurrection of Syria, Iraq and the Middle East.”

By Murcadha O’Flaherty

NEW YORK —“No household in Syria has been unaffected by war” and the country’s recovery process will be long and hard. That was the assessment of Sister Annie Demerjian of the Sisters of Jesus, speaking recently in London at a meeting sponsored by international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

Sister Demerjian said: “In Aleppo there is a major shortage of electricity, sometimes we only have it on for one or two hours per day, sometimes not even that and we have to use candles for light;” she added that the government is unable to distribute adequate supplies of fuel for cooking and heating purposes.

The sister, who spends considerable time in Aleppo helping both Christian and Muslim residents of Aleppo, described Syria’s second-largest urban center as “a city without water,” with a lack of supply that can continue for weeks on end.

ACN has supported Syrian Christians since the beginning of the country’s civil war. This month, ACN will provide some $18,000 to provide medical aid for 2,200 families in Aleppo. Working with local supermarkets, Sister Annie and her team of volunteers distribute food vouchers to the needy and often displaced people in both Aleppo and Damascus, with, for example, $185,000 supplying 1500 families in and around the Syrian capital with food essentials for three months. Seventy percent of Aleppo residents live below the poverty line.

A crucial program ACN has been supporting for the past two years is called “A Drop of Milk.” It provides much needed milk to more than 2800 Christian children in Aleppo, the majority receiving powdered milk, with special milk given to infants. The yearly cost of the program is $235,000.

Georgina, a mother of three, stressed how crucial the program is in particular for the well-being of her daughter Pamela (6). The little girl was hit by shrapnel and was in critical condition. “Now that she is recovering, she needs milk to become healthier and stronger,” her mother said. Each of her children receives just over two pounds of milk powder each month.

Sister Annie concluded her presentation with a prayer and appeal for peace, saying: “during Mass I was thinking that in Syria we have been in Lent for five years now and I wish one day for the resurrection of Syria, Iraq and the Middle East.”

In this video message, Melkite Archbishop Jean-Clément Jeanbart of Aleppo expresses his sorrow about the damage done to his Church, along with hope for a renaissance of his community. In this video message, Father Ziad Hilal, SJ, ACN’s special representative in Syria who also works with Jesuit Relief Services, shows off a devastated youth center in Aleppo that the local Church hopes to rebuild.