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Sunday, 01 January 2017 20:24

SYRIA Children and the peaceful Christmas

31st December 2016 - Over 500 children have attended a show dedicated to the "birth of peace". In Damascus, there is no water and electricity; but in the dark you can see the "light" that illuminates the world. Toys, scarves, gloves and wool socks distributed to children most in need. A young actor says: Peace is not only a miracle but "we are the first who must build it". 

Despite the "pain" and "suffering" caused by war, Christians in Syria have had a "wonderful Christmas." The deaths caused by the conflict teach us "the true meaning of life and birth." This is what Sandra Awad, Head of Communications of Caritas Syria, 38, married and mother of two children, tells AsiaNews in a letter about the festive season in the Syrian capital. "Our Christmas - she writes - is not so bright and illuminated as in other parts of the world; our trees are not illuminated because we do not have electricity for most of the day. However, sometimes the darkness "is important" because it allows us to "see and understand what really matters in life."

Among the many events organized by the local Church, we want to highlight a theatrical play written and edited by the Caritas communications director, entitled "The Birth of peace" and watched by more than 500 children in two different shows. The text was an attempt to explain the meaning of peace to them, of sharing, of acceptance through a "common effort [...] ourselves and in our families."

Here, below, the testimony of the Caritas director:

Christmas 2016 is here, but our country is still living the pain of the Holy week of 2011. Despite all of what we are living now, our Christmas is beautiful. Why beautiful despite the war? I don't know! Maybe the death shows us the real meaning of birth. maybe the sadness all around give the happiness moments more value. much more value. and maybe because we are now waiting impatiently for the birth of the peace child in a country. 

Our Christmas is not like the bright Christmas in other countries in the world; our trees are not lit because we don't have electricity most of the time. War took away electricity with a lot of other things. water, gas, oil, gasoline, warmth. We're dying every day to provide these goods, but it's ok.

When we don't have electricity, we can light a small candle and put it near the small Christmas cave, which all the Christian families put under their Christmas trees in Syria.

Maybe the darkness is important for the human being sometimes to let him see the most important in life. The most important in Christmas is Jesus' birth. A lot of light will let us concentrate on the beauty of the tree, and we might forget to look at the small baby who is sitting under it in the cave, waiting for our candle to be lit near him, to give him some warmth. some  love. a little bit of love.

Our Christmas in Caritas this year is not like other Christmases. We were full of joy when we were preparing for our Christmas event, which took place on Dec 23 on the theater of the Cross Church in Damascus. Around 550 needy children were invited to attend a Theater Play, which I wrote myself and called "The Birth of Peace". I put a lot of peace messages and ideas like accepting the other difference, starting to build peace from ourselves and in our families,.

This play was acted by young talented group of actors called "Enjaz", with the participation of some children. Tony Estephan, 11 years old actor said: "What I liked the most in this play is the idea that I performed in front of a lot of needy children, who have my age, and I gave them joy, a lot of joy, because the play is a comedy, which I am sure they liked a lot.”

Ethraa, 22 years old actress said: "The idea of the play is new, and it talks about us, all the Syrians. The heroes of the play are the decoration of a Christmas tree in Syria (angel, star, snowman, light, boots, deer, stick, and bell) who are having discussions whether to stay or to leave to another country after they found out that war is still ongoing outside, this kind of discussions that we have every day between us everywhere and all the time.”

Adam Al-Shami, 20 years old actor, said: "The idea that peace should start from us is fantastic, I've never thought about it this way before. We’ve been waiting for peace to come by a miracle since 2011; I have never thought that we should build it ourselves. This play enriched me with wonderful ideas that I should rethink about.”

Rita Jarallah, one of our procurement team, said: "When we were in the shop, choosing the Christmas gifts, I was imagining the smiles of the children when they will open their gifts and find out a valuable toy, which their parents can't afford buying. Every child also will find a warm knitwear hat, scarf and three pairs of socks, made by some needy women, who were happy to earn some money for their families and make children warm with some clothes made with a lot of love. Actually this was my Christmas this year, a Christmas full of children warm smiles.”

Fadia Nassar, the project coordinator of Caritas Syria said: "While the play was running on the theater, I kept looking at the happy faces of the children, who were smiling and laughing all the time. It gave me a wonderful feeling that I can't describe…"

Sara, a 7 years old girl who attended the event said: "I am happy because I became a mother now. Caritas offered me this wonderful doll and I am her mother now. I will take good care of her all the time.”

John, a ten year old boy said: "I liked the play a lot, especially that it showed us the story of the birth of Jesus. Children like us were playing the role of The Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, the magi and the shepherds. My dream is to become an actor, and I would like to perform something about Christmas like them next time.”

Dr. Rama Zreik, the Ambassador of Childhood and Goodwill attended the event and said: "Our Children need these ideas of peace and these wonderful concepts of love and conviviality. They are the ones who will rebuild Syria, and they should be taught these ideas from their early age."

Karim, 11 years old boy, said when we told him to say something to Caritas Germany who financed this event:  "I would like to say thank you for Caritas Germany for this event and the nice gifts. You made our Christmas bright and full of joy this year!" (Asianews)

Sandra Awad, Responsabile della Comunicazione Caritas Siria

Published in News

25th July 2016 - More than half the 500,000 school-age refugee children from Syria, registered in Lebanon cannot attend school because of limited availabilityof resources and strict Lebanese government residence policies. This was reported by Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a recent survey. The same report also highlighted positive steps towards giving access to free schooling for Syrian children refugees. In a report sent to Fides, the NGO underlines that education is crucial for helping children overcome the trauma of war and homelessness besides having a positive role in the future rebuilding Syria.

Lebanon organised a series of evening classes in 238 schools to meet the needs growing numbers of school age children for the school year 2015-2016. Syrian schools are offering more places for Syrian refugees despite scarce economic resources . A reported 70% of Syrian families are unable to pay for school material and fees.

Besides the question of limited funds other elements which impede school attendance include abuse and maltreatment, little knowledge of the local language and norms for requesting places at school. Middle school-age children and those over 15 have difficulty regarding residence permits. Lebanon last year opened 200,000 spaces for Syrian refugees in public schools, but only 158,000 children enrolled, and 10,000 fewer actually attended. In Lebanon at present there are 1.1 million legally registered Syrians half of them minors, although the authorities claim the numbers are higher. (AP) (Fides)

Published in News

11th July 2016 - “"We are again under bombs. We do not know what is about to happen. Even last night we could not sleep, and this morning an artillery shell also fell in the street of our cathedral, resulting in one death and three injuries. Also for this reason we have decided not to reopen the Caritas offices, which had been closed for a few days during the Muslim feast for the end of Ramadan". Bishop Antoine Audo SJ, at the head of the Chaldean Diocese of Aleppo, explains to Agenzia Fides the daily horror that continues to disrupt the martyred city worn away by five years of war.

The new upsurge of bombings and mortar attacks on neighborhoods in Aleppo must also be considered, according to the Chaldean Bishop, as a reaction to the operations with which the army took control of the so-called "road of the Castle" by cutting the connections between areas occupied by rebel militiamen - including those related to jihadist acronyms - and Turkey. "They launch a hail of bullets to show they are not happy, that they are dangerous and are still strong", notes Mgr. Audo.

In addition to fear and the count of new victims, the Chaldean Bishop also keeps track of the persistent signs of a life of faith, in the presence of factors that he defines as "a mysterious and wonderful paradox": on one side - says the Bishop - "we are all heartbroken by what is happening, on the other side there are many that in this state meet to celebrate the sacraments, pray, share a spirit of hope and mercy. I have just been called by the participants in a spiritual retreat organized on the mountains by the Focolare members. There were two hundred people, with ten priests. From next Thursday we will meet in Tartus with 175 operators and Caritas volunteers from all over Syria, for a few days of formation and meetings. It is a mysterious and wonderful paradox: on one hand there is the desolation of war, and on the other there is the consolation of God". (GV) (Agenzia Fides 11/07/2016)

Published in News

10th June 2016 -  Demonstrating its commitment to mission "beyond the borders", the Missionary Youth (JM) of Brazil has launched the "Corrente Solidaria" project, which provides for cooperation between the JM of Brazil and the sisters of the Congregation of the Poor Child Jesus who work in Vila Maulo'o, in Indonesia. The sisters run a school that welcomes poor children, with no financial means to study in traditional schools. Often they are orphans and children of farmers and fishermen or waste collectors.

The Congregation of the Sisters of the Poor Child Jesus (pauperis infantis Jesu - PIJ) whose mission is to work with children and poor young people and abandoned. Their charisma is focused on education, health and pastoral care in orphanages.

Through the project "Corrente Solidaria", all Brazilian local churches where JM is present will be invited to contribute to the purchase of uniforms and school material for 60 children in Indonesia. Those responsible for the JM Group will be in charge of coordinating the project together with Brazil's PMS. The initiative will end in October, missionary month. (CE) (Agenzia Fides, 09/06/2016)

Published in News

28th May 2016 - Restrictive measures requested by the EU against “over 200 people and 70 entities” of Assad’s regime and its supporters expire on June 1. The European Council will be called to discuss the possibility of an extension, granted already in May 2013. Members of the Syrian Catholic Church voiced their opposition to the sanctions, “for they impact the population as a whole” and asked MPs and Mayors of European Countries to lift the embargo. On May 20 the petition was transmitted to the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini

In the coming days, the European Council – which includes the heads of State or Government of the 28 EU member States, the President of the European Commission and the President of the European Council – will be called to discuss whether or not to prolong the restrictive measures against the Syrian regime adopted five years, which expire on June 1. The measures due to be re-examined, include, inter alia, the restrictions on certain equipment that might be used for internal repression, ban on the import of weapons, oil, gas, telecommunications, technology to intercept and monitor, ban on trade in gold, precious metals and diamonds with Syrian public bodies, the prohibition to participate in the construction of new plants for the production of electricity in Syria, issuance of bonds, restrictions on cooperation with Syrian banks, travel restrictions for some people (visa and travel ban). The assets of specific individuals and bodies are frozen. The sanctions, clarifies a factsheet of the EU Council, titled “EU Restrictive measures”, are one of the EU’s tools to promote the objectives of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP): peace, democracy and the respect for the rule of law, human rights and international law. They are always part of a comprehensive policy approach involving political dialogue and complementary efforts. Sanctions re not punitive, but designed to bring about a change in policy or activity by the target country, entities or individuals.

the EU makes every effort to minimise adverse consequences for the civilian population or for legitimate activities.”

The embargo weighs heavily on the population. A few days ago, an appeal titled “Stop sanctions against the Syrian population” was launched by members of the Catholic Church in Syria. Among the signatories of the petition figure Bishop Georges Abou Khazen (Apostolic Vicar of Aleppo for the Catholic Latin Rite), Maronite Archbishop of Aleppo Joseph Tobji, Monsignor Jean Clément Jeanbart, Greek Catholic Archbishop of Aleppo, Armenian Catholic Archbishop of Aleppo Boutros Marayati, Monsignor Jacques Behnan Hindo, Syrian Catholic Bishop of Hassaké-Nisibi and Gregory III Laham, Patriarch of the Melkites, along with men and women religious from various orders and institutes in the Syrian territory.

The appeal of the Churches. The text of the petition reiterates: “In these five years the sanctions on Syria have helped destroy the Syrian society, condemning it to hunger, epidemics, poverty, encouraging activism of fundamentalist militia fighters who now also strike in Europe. They add on to a war that has already caused the death of 250 thousand people and six million refugees. Rather unexplainably, in 2012 the oil embargo in the areas controlled by the armed and jihadist opposition was removed, in order to provide economic resources to the so-called ‘revolutionary forces of the opposition’.”

 “Food shortage, widespread unemployment, impossibility to access medical care, rationing of drinking water, electricity” are the direct consequences of the sanctions, which make it “impossible even for the Syrians who settled abroad before the war to send money to their relatives or family members left behind. “Syrians see the possibility of a viable future for families only if they run away from their land”, but “escaping cannot be the only solution that the international community can propose to these poor people.” (Sir)

Published in News

17th May 2016 - A digital online petition, launched by Bishops and religious of the local Catholic Churches, to sign on platform, aimed "at MPs and the mayors in every Country" to ask for "the iniquity of sanctions on Syria to be made known to the citizens of the European Union and become, finally, the subject of a serious debate and consequent resolutions".

This is the initiative launched by a number of Bishops, religious and consecrated Catholics belonging to different Churches sui iuris, to ask the European Union to put an end to sanctions still in place against Syria. Among the first signatories of the petition: Bishop Georges Abou Khazen OFM (Apostolic Vicar of Aleppo for the Catholic Latin Rite), Maronite Archbishop of Aleppo Joseph Tobji, emeritus Holy Land Custodian Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa OFM, Armenian Catholic Archbishop of Aleppo Boutros Marayati, the Community of the Trappist nuns in Syria, the sisters of Congregation of Perpetual Help, the Sisters of the Congregation of St. Joseph of the Apparition (operating at the Saint Louis Hospital in Aleppo) and Jean Clément Jeanbart, Greek Catholic Archbishop of Aleppo.

The brief text of the petition contains a discussion of pressing contradictions that mark the policy of sanctions imposed by the EU, and a bitter description of the devastating effects that it produces in the daily life of the Syrian people, in the tragic context of the conflict, which in five years has already resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths and six million refugees. "In 2011", says the text that introduces the petition, sent to Agenzia Fides, "the European Union put into effect sanctions against Syria, presenting them as 'sanctions against the regime', which imposed the oil embargo to the country, blocking all financial transactions, and the prohibition to trade many goods and products. A measure that still lasts today, although in 2012 the oil embargo in the areas controlled by the armed and jihadist opposition was removed, in order to provide economic resourses to the so-called 'revolutionary forces of the opposition'. In these five years - continues the text of the petition - the sanctions on Syria have helped destroy the Syrian society, condemning it to hunger, epidemics, poverty, encouraging activism of fundamentalist militia fighters who now also strike in Europe.

"The petitioners point out that today "Syrians see the possibility of a viable future for families only if they run away from their land, but "escaping cannot be the only solution that the international community can propose to these poor people", partly because it "encounters many difficulties, due to lively debates within the European Union". The petitioners support "all humanitarian and peace initiatives that the international community is implementing, in particular through the difficult negotiations in Geneva", but in the meantime with the hope that the expectations find concrete answers, they ask "that sanctions that affect the daily lives of every Syrian are immediately removed".

The link to the online petition

Published in News
Friday, 29 April 2016 19:07

AFRICA Malaria can be cured

29th April 2016 - Prevention and access to treatment. Malaria in Africa today remains one of the most common diseases among adults and a major cause of death for children. Doctors with Africa Cuamm are present in 16 hospitals: Angola, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Tanzania, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Uganda where 30% of admissions are due to severe forms of malaria, with peaks of 50% in hospitals in Yirol and Cueibet in South Sudan and Aber, in Uganda. Malaria can be cured say Cuamm experts in the statement sent to Agenzia Fides at the recent World Malaria Day.

The problem is very often to ensure access to treatment for sick people who live far from hospitals, in rural and remote areas who are often the most affected. What is even more important is to work on prevention, through the distribution and awareness on the use of simple tools: mosquito nets, repellents, pest control campaigns against mosquito dwelling. In 2015, 89,000 outpatient treatments were carried out and 20,000 hospital admissions for malaria were registered in 7 countries where Cuamm is present. (AP) (Agenzia Fides

Published in News

 6th April 2016 - Rebirth of the monastery: the relics of Mar Elian have been recovered in the sanctuary devastated by Jihadists.  In Quaryatayn, the Syrian city recently returned under Syrian military control, the jihadists of the Islamic State (Daesh) have gone, leaving rubble and devastation in Mar Elian sanctuary, where since the early days of occupation, in August 2015, had brutally desecrated the tomb of the Saint, to erase what even to their eyes represented the heart of the monastic complex. But the relics of Mar Elian, scattered around the tomb of the Saint, are not lost: they can be collected and reassembled.

The news of the recovery of the relics was reported to Agenzia Fides by Father Jacques Murad, the Prior of the monastic community - affiliated to the monastery of Deir Mar Musa in Abashi - which in recent years had revived the ancient Sanctuary of the fifth century, placed on the outskirts of Quaryatayn. Father Jacques Murad was himself taken prisoner by a jihadist commando that on May 21, 2015 had raided the sanctuary and seized him, and was able to regain full freedom only on 11 October.

"In front of all what happened and is happening", remarked Fr. Murad "I prefer to be silent, because now silence appears to me as the most appropriate word". Then, with a few simple words, he expresses the consoling vision of faith with which he and his confreres also experienced this troubled time. "The fact that the relics of Mar Elian are not lost", Fr. Jacques confides to Fides "is for me a great sign: it means that he did not want to leave the monastery and the holy land.

We know that saints are in heaven, and we can always invoke them and ask for their help. I remember that on September 9, the day of the liturgical memorial of Mar Elian, I had celebrated Mass with other Christians in Qaryatayn, while we were under the rule of Daesh. I told them it is not important that the monastery is destroyed, it is not even important that the tomb was destroyed. The important thing is that you bear Mar Elian in your heart, wherever you go, even in Canada, or Europe, because he wants to stay in the hearts of his followers".

Tomorrow, a priest of the Syrian Catholic archeparchy of Homs, along with some monks of Dei Mar Musa, will go to Mar Elian to verify the conditions of the sanctuary. "I asked them", says Father Jacques to Fides "to collect the remains and bring them to Homs to guard them. We know that the old sanctuary was destroyed, the archaeological site was devastated, while the new church and monastery were burned and partly bombed. The life of grace will bloom again around the memory of the saints. It will be a great blessing for our entire Church". (GV) (Agenzia Fides 06/04/2016)

Published in News

14th March 2016 - Pax Christi International: fasting, prayer and concrete actions to be close to the Syrian people. The international movement Pax Christi invites groups, communities, parishes and Christian families around the world to hold a day of solidarity with the Syrian people, to be expressed also through fasting and the convening of meetings of prayer, between Tuesday 15 and Sunday, March 20.

In particular, Pax Christi invites all Catholic parishes to include a special prayer for Syria on Palm Sunday, to ask in particular for an end to all attacks against civilians and bombings, to put an end to sieges around city centers to allow to face numerous humanitarian emergencies, and that the talks for a political settlement of the conflict bring concrete results.

In recent days - underline the press releases issued by the International Movement - Pax Christi has put on the web the data regarding the monitoring of war bombings and actions continued in different areas of the Syrian territory, despite the announcement of the truce. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 14/03/2016)

Published in News
Thursday, 10 March 2016 13:18

Forget, No !... Forgive, Yes!

I am from Syria, I exist, I live, I reflect and I create !    

The Buds of Peace are about to blossom

and it’s not a hearsay !

Our hearts are going to become white   

to stop the flooding of the rivers of blood… 

Syria ! Sooner or later,

you are going to wake up from this long nightmare !

and celebrate peace while serving champagne !

Let’s hope they are not just castles in the air !

In spite of war, terrorism and our despised dignity,    

we survive, we will defy the challenge…    

We will get back on our feet !...  

Our experimental high school in'' Mleiha'' has paid a heavy tribute to war !

You were still brand new, barely inaugurated…    

The war swept us away, and now it is very badly damaged !  

We have been uprooted !

It has been devastated, plundered, damaged !...

Forget, No !... Forgive, Yes!

Despite a  demanding situation, stimulated and encouraged by our sisters of Charity, we overcome our distress and we invent the celebrations and the cultural initiatives for our students, in order to dispel fear and to conquer despair.   

Me Elias Nseir

Member of the patriarchal school administration  “Al Rihaya »



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