Do not forget Aleppo!
Montreal/Königstein, Friday April 17, 2015 – “The world must not forget Aleppo.” With these words Johannes Freiherr von Heereman, the Executive President of the Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need, has launched an appeal to help the people of Aleppo who are caught up in the war in Syria.
“The days ahead are expected to be tough for our people. I hope that thanks to your prayers and support it will not be like this. I am deeply moved by your help. May God bless you. We are united in the Heart of Jesus and the Heart of Mary.” – Sister Annie in Aleppo
Situated in the north of the country, Aleppo is Syria’s second largest city and has been the scene of conflict between the government and predominantly jihadist rebels for the last two years. “Heavy fighting is currently taking place again. Many people are dying and thousands of inhabitants are fleeing the city, including many Christians,” explains Heereman, citing local sources.
Sister Annie has been holding out in the city for several years, and reported a few days ago to Aid to the Church in Need, “Fighting in Aleppo commenced at the weekend. Rebel rocket attacks killed 14 Christians on Saturday alone. Many were injured. Every day buses are taking Christian families away from the city, but there is not enough transport for all those who wish to leave. The people feel abandoned. Eight congregations are still persevering in Aleppo in an endeavour to help the people there. Before the fighting started, 70,000 Christians lived in the city, now there are only around 60,000.”
The Jesuit Refugee Service operating in Syria has also described the desperate conditions in Syria as follows, “The situation in Aleppo has deteriorated significantly in the last 72 hours. There has been an increase in violence on both sides of the city, and preparations to organize churches and other key locations into shelters are under way in Aleppo.”
The Jesuit Father Ziad Hilal of Homs is helping refugees from Aleppo. On Thursday he told Aid to the Church in Need, “Hundreds of families, in particular Christian families, have fled to the coastal regions and the Valley of the Christians, including Homs. They have lost all of their possessions and are in need of everything: shelter, blankets, mattresses, clothing, and so on. Some of the sick among the refugees depend on medicines.”
Father Ziad is expecting more arrivals if the violence in Aleppo continues. “Many families are being torn apart. I met a family. The father is still in Aleppo while the mother and her children were able to escape. The people are in a dreadful situation at the moment.”
Sister Annie remarks that the citizens of Aleppo have been suffering for many years, “In the last three years they have endured more than most people. They have lost everything. The city’s water and power supply systems have collapsed, but still they persist. They are a lesson for all of us.” She appeals to the benefactors of Aid to the Church in Need, “The days ahead are expected to be tough for our people. I hope that thanks to your prayers and support it will not be like this. I am deeply moved by your help. May God bless you. We are united in the Heart of Jesus and the Heart of Mary.”
The reality is, the Christian population of Syria is disappearing before our eyes. Clearly, it is not only Christians who are suffering, but all inhabitants of the city are affected. Will we continue to stand with arms crossed as human beings suffer and die?