The initiative was promoted in collaboration with the governorate of the city. From clearing sidewalks to the restoration of activities. Fr. Ibrahim: to make the city symbol of the Syrian conflict more beautiful is a "challenge" that "unites" faithful of all religions. And an "opportunity" to renew "that wonderful mosaic that is our society. There is also a summer camp for 860 children.
Aleppo (AsiaNews) – Restoring life to the city that has long been the epicenter of the Syrian conflict; putting to rest the death, destruction, clashes between factions and opposing extremisms that divided the city in two; reviving a renewed idea of beauty, of cleanliness, of order from ashes and dust because peace also passes through ordered streets, houses, shops and small businesses. With this spirit, the Latin Catholic community, in collaboration with the governorate of Syria's second largest city once the country's economic and trade capital, have launched the " Aleppo more beautiful" project (pictured).
The program kicked off in recent days, with a solemn ceremony presided over by Fr. Ibrahim Alsabagh, a 44-year-old Franciscan, guardian and parish priest of the Latin Parish of Aleppo, in the area in front of the church. The function was also attended by government representatives, Muslims, in a ceremony with a strong interreligious character.
The priest told AsiaNews that the first act in the initiative involving authorities and ordinary citizens, was "painting the sidewalks". "And the authorities themselves - adds the religious – were the first to get to work” on the paths and streets that still show signs of conflict.
Making "Aleppo more beautiful" is the slogan of the initiative and is a "concern" and a "challenge" that "unites" both Christians and Muslims; Because, as the Islamic-Christian leaders of the city have repeatedly stressed, religions are not a source of war and faith is a source of peace, rebirth, and harmonious coexistence.
According to members of the parish, this project "makes us one nation, one family, regardless of our religion or our convictions." "Also - adds Fr. Ibrahim - we realized from the very outset that this initiative is a good opportunity to retrieve or renew that wonderful mosaic that is our society. "
"We struggle with love for our martyred city - he continues - with the desire to promote reconciliation" in a reality that still remains "hurt and torn". And it is even more important to do so today because "good is contagious" and can therefore be transmitted and diffused.
Hence, the invitation from the local Catholic community, which extended over time to all churches, Christian scouts, ecclesial movements, and finally all the inhabitants of the city, Christians or Muslims, without distinction of faith . "The Latin Parish - adds Fr. Ibrahim - has also taken care of the project costs and has bought all the equipment needed. "
Speaking of the early days of the initiative, the priest reports that "all the young people in our parish", together with "good willed men and women, in total more than 200 people, armed with brushes, buckets and paint" went out to "reclaim the city ... to make it more beautiful. " The project will continue in the coming days, following a well-defined directive: volunteers will be divided into teams, each of which consists of 10 people and one adult. The area involved in the cleaning work will be divided into sectors and each team will be assigned a few streets and roads.
At the same time the parish has started a "summer camp" for children, under the motto "With Jesus, we bring color to life." Hundreds of children (about 860 according to the latest estimates) between the ages of 4 and 15 have adhered to the initiative, with a number that has tripled in recent years. For two months young people will be able to practice many activities, from dance to sport, from music to the arts. Through these "small actions" and these "little gestures," concludes Fr. Ibrahim, we can "reconstruct our city and society together", exploiting the "great potential" that is enclosed in the Church and the Catholic community of the city. And it is "our duty and our mission to share this great potential" and to contribute to the well-being of all our brothers and sisters who live with us in our country, our city, and our society. "
The family is a sign of hope in a context of war and violence. The Latin parish launches a "spiritual and material" support program. Fr. Ibrahim: An initiative that embraces all Christian rites and confessions and does not forget "our Muslim brothers and sisters". Pope Francis (and the Curia) donate 100,000 euros. Information on how you too can donate to the campaign.
Rania Salouji is a 40-year-old Christian woman. She is married to Grigor and they have two kids, 17 and 14. At the beginning of the war she thought about fleeing but chose to stay. She was anxious for months when her husband was held captive and she is still traumatised by the death of a boy killed by a rocket near the catechism centre. Each day she entrusts her children to Our Lady, reciting the Rosary. We must “live normally, as much as possible”.
Food, bread and other basic necessities lacking for days. United Nations denounces block in aid distribution. The government's siege of the eastern part of the city could be a turning point in the Syrian conflict. In the northeast of the country a Syrian Orthodox Church on fire; behind the raid (maybe) Islamic State militiamen.
For Msgr. Georges Abou Khazen the situation in the northern cities "is still though". People fear to go out onto the streets to celebrate Eid al-Fitr. Improvement in electricity and water supplies. Church offers rare moments of leisure for a battered community with summer camps. Thanks to Pope Francis for his support and solidarity.