Aleppo (AsiaNews) – As the conflict drags on rockets continue to fall on Aleppo with the economic crisis weighing heavily on residents, which for some is worse than the terror and suffering endured so far, this according to Fr Ibrahim Alsabagh, parish priest of the city’s Latin community.
Born in Damascus in 1971, the clergyman has been directly involved in helping the victims of war in Syria’s largest northern city, one of the main battlegrounds in the country’s civil war, which has killed almost half a million people and displaced more than seven million.
With Easter coming up, Fr Ibrahim is providing a can of oil for families in difficulty as a tangible sign of charity and mercy. What follows is his message for Lent:
You know the difficult situation in which we find ourselves in Syria, particularly in the tormented city of Aleppo.
We are now in the eighth year of the war and it is not over. Missiles still fall on the western districts of the city and the conflict still appears long and with no way out. There are those who clearly say that there will be no future for us. In this further worsening of the situation, people are put to the test especially by the economic crisis, which for some fathers of the family is even worse than all the terror and suffering they have suffered until today.
In the cold winter months a fuel emergency has been added: diesel, fuel and gas are missing. We have received promises and assurances that the supply of electricity would increase, both as a time cover and as quality, but the situation has unfortunately worsened rather than improved. We are now rationing increasingly severe electricity. Alongside this, the lack of electricity limits the production sector and many shop owners and other businesses have told us that for three months they have no income…
In this situation, people continue to pay a very high price and the spectrum of hunger does not spare anyone: it’s like a nightmare that dominates the situation and leaves hearts in bitterness and despair.
For this reason, as a Latin Church, we are mobilizing on all fronts, particularly by continuing and strengthening our commitment to food support. The monthly distribution of the food package is still essential for most families living in poverty.
While in Italy, as I always say, in a poor family there is no shortage of bread and wine, in our homes, here in the Middle East, what normally does not lack is bread and oil. In the center and in the north of the country, in particular, there are many olive trees that produce very good oil in abundance. Today, however, this local product has become inaccessible for many Syrians because of the high price. The price of a can of oil today corresponds to the monthly salary of a government employee, 50 euros.
Generally a family of four consumes about one can of oil in a year. Given the situation, we thought that there is not a more beautiful gift that can today be offered to an Aleppo family than an olive oil can.
This project also has other positive effects. Looking at the general situation of the country, I see the need to return to the soil, strengthening agriculture and encouraging the work of farmers. Our project will also help small-scale farmers in villages in central and northern Syria, who are in great need of support.
I always question the insistence of Jesus who, as a good Master, asks us to be charitable and merciful to others (see Luke 6:26-38). He does not ask for any charity, but a practical charity that has the strength to go into details to manifest itself in all its beauty in daily life; a direct charity not only to friends but also to enemies.
Dear friends, in this crisis in Aleppo, as a Church, we have always tried to live this practical and real charity. This continues to be our goal, even in Lent that is about to begin and the project “a can of oil for each family” is a concrete and immediate expression.
I thank you for the understanding and compassion you always show us, for all you have done in the past and for what you will do in the future. May the Lord always make you grow in his love.
*Franciscan priest, responsible for the Latin Community – Aleppo