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Old Syriak in Aleppo after the bomb attack in July. 

“The situation is a complicated one, and we are hearing many contradictory stories. The only truth we do know is that the people here are suffering and dying.” The words are those of Sister Anne-Françoise, a French religious of the Enclosed an Apostolic Discalced Carmelite Sisters of Aleppo, who was speaking to the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) last week about the martyrdom of this Syrian city, which in recent weeks has become a theatre of fierce clashes between the Syrian government and opposing rebel groups.


The convent belonging to these contemplative religious Sisters is situated in the university city on the outskirts of Aleppo, in an area still seriously affected by the fighting. “When the Syrian army attempts to prevent the opposition and other groups from entering into the city, the bombing and shelling is really close to us. Thanks be to God, they haven’t hit us yet, but we are constantly hearing the shells pass over our heads.”


“Please help us! The bombs are falling all around us, but we are not going to leave the people in their suffering”


The Carmelite nuns, four of whom are Syrian and two who are French, have taken in a number of refugee families in a building adjoining their convent, and they are also supporting other families with the few resources at their disposal. “By now it is only the poorest of the people who are still left here in Aleppo. So many Christians have left the city during these years of war. We have no water, no electricity, and the fighting is continuing incessantly. Who could possibly come back in these conditions?”


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Needless to say, the six nuns are afraid as well, but they are staying close to the people nevertheless. “How can we abandon these people in their suffering? The witness of our presence is important for them. We draw strength and courage from prayer; this is our protection. The diplomatic solutions have not worked. We simply pray to the Lord that this war may stop.”


After years of fighting, and of an unceasing Christian exodus, Sister Anne-Françoise is fearful that more and more families will abandon Aleppo – once a symbol of Christianity in Syria. In fact – as ACN will be explaining in a report on anti-Christian persecution which the charity will present this year at a special meeting in Rimini – since 2011, out of a population of over 160,000 Christians in the city, barely 40,000 now remain. “The Middle East, the land of Christ, now risks becoming empty of Christians. That is unthinkable, and yet the situation is truly terrible. And even for those who leave, the crisis does not end. They find themselves uprooted from their own soil and sometimes even lose their spiritual roots as well.”


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Christian children (of the various denominations) gathering together in Tartous for peace procession, on the “International Day of the Child” , 11th of June 2016: A girl with a poster during the Peace procession “Praying loudly to be heard, don´t leave us, don’t forget us.”

The Sisters’ appeal to the international community and to all Christians throughout the world is this: “Please take pity on these thousands of lives, torn apart by war. Please don’t forget us. We need your prayers and your practical help!”


To donate to the those suffering in the Syrian conflict:



Text by Marta Petrosillo, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Aid to the Church  in Need Canada







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