Aleppo is no longer under siege. Rockets no longer fall. There’s a new, open challenge now, that of rebuilding a city which once was as big as Milan and which has turned into a barren «all-consuming, producing absolutely nothing» village. How can rebuilding be possible? And, more important still, whose task it is?
Father Ibrahim Alsabagh is still a prophet of hope in our days, and in his new book The Morning Comes he recounts of the struggles and faith of a people whose wings have been broken. Whereas the government is still engaged at war, and is thus unable to cope with the crisis in town, it is the Church who takes care of each and everyone’s needs, whether these needs be material or spiritual. The Christian community still proves it is a sound, dependable reality, able to deal with and improve the fate of men, women and children who have had a first-hand experience of what death is and learnt to call her «sister».
Father Ibrahim, a bright smile always on his lips, his eyes full of faith, is not afraid of telling the truth. He knows that the road towards rebuilding will be long and tough: houses need repairing but mostly, hearts. In a situation where it is difficult to survive even for those who are alive, Father Ibrahim has started several projects involving the whole community in its multi-faced expressions: from infrastructure and facilities to economics, from education to public health. See how three engineers are working to prepare new lodgings, see micro-economy giving support to the youth and their thoughts – because, against all odds, youth are still able to dream. All sort of material help is a gift to move on on the road towards being independent from external aid, which is especially true for family men, lions unmanned within the cage of frustration. Some projects are quite successful and provide job opportunities to many, who, in turn, make up their minds to stay in Aleppo instead of fleeing somewhere else. Indeed, the pivot role of the family is treasured by the Syrian friars as an invaluable seed for a future, blossoming life: young couples who wish to get married, even the most destitute, are supported at all times by the Franciscans, who provide them even with wedding rings and outfits.
They’re all either sick or wounded in Aleppo, in their bodies and in their hearts. The highest price is paid by children. Due to the poison and gases used in the armed struggles, even the youngest suffer with cataract; many develop aggressive behaviours and must go to rehab in order to go back to normal, following a long-endured treatment within schools, and also through sport and music therapy.
Healing and a new life: these are the key words that will lead to the resurrection of Aleppo. All concrete means are useless without the Word of God, which has the strength to build up and restore the community.
For this reason and for this certainty, along with the English language courses and the activities of the summer youth club, father Ibrahim and his brothers organize pilgrimages, solemn Masses, prayer groups. «Repair my house», the Crucifix of Saint Damian said to Francis; these words are still echoing in Syria today.
«Many are the ways that Evil attacks, inside and outside the Church», Father Ibrahim sums up, «but we Christians have no right either to be frightened by or to gaze at Evil. We must focus on Good, without complaining and saying which power we have against Evil, but bearing witness to Good».
The Morning Comes is a really special means of communion, because it leads readers into looking at Christ, alive and working in the people of Aleppo, a people crucified, a people who won’t die anymore.