Dear friends,

I would have liked to give you some good news … Indeed, almost a month ago, on February 16, 2020, Aleppo was finally completely liberated. The highway, the famous M5 was reopened, the international airport welcomed, after eight years of closure, the first civilian aircraft. The Aleppins celebrated the liberation….

On that day, I wrote in my notebook: “Hope is now, it is not in the distant future, it is now.”

I believed like many Syrians that peace was knocking on our doors …

Unfortunately, that breeze of fresh air was soon replaced by an asphyxiating desperation.

Turkey has launched an operation in Syria to protect the terrorists. The Syrian army moves towards Idlib while retaking the villages which were under the control of the Al Nosra front.

The main M5 high is again cut off. The fights are raging. Hundreds of young people are losing their lives.

And I wonder:

What’s going on in my country? Why do Westerners treat the jihadists as terrorists when they arrive in their countries, and when the Syrian government tries to eliminate terrorism in Syria, these same Westerners talk about a humanitarian crisis?
Why does the Turkish government allow itself the right to push back the Syrian army which is on its own territory? Why do young people have to die to defend their country from foreign aggression?
As Syrians, do we have the right to decide our fate? Are we puppets in the hands of the great powers without having a say?
Who will bring back to the parents of martyrs their children who fell on the battlefield?

And last week, a meeting in Moscow decided on a cease-fire and a reopening of the M5 and M4 motorways (it links Aleppo to Latakia).

Will this cease-fire resist the violations of the armed groups?

The forgotten of Idlib

The Holy Father invites us to act in favour of the “forgotten of Idlib”.

But who are the “forgotten of Idlib”? Are they mainly the thousands of families who are currently displaced to flee the fighting or are they also the thousands of Christian and Muslim families retained by the jihadists of the Al Nosra front and who, for more than 8 years, have prevented them from living with dignity?

I think of all these families from the villages of (KNAYEH, YACOUBIEH, JDAIDEH AND GHASSANIEH), who had to flee because of the terrorists who occupy their villages. Those who stayed were forced to share part or all of their homes with armed foreigners?

Tell us who are “the forgotten of Idlib”?

Are they the dead cities of northern Syria, archaeological entirely Christian cities

but plundered and destroyed by thieves in the name of democracy and freedom?

If it is true that hundreds of thousands of families fled the war, the real reason should be sought.

The war has transformed people in search of peace and prosperity, to displaced and forgotten people.

In few days, once again, we will remember this fateful date of March 15, 2011 when it all started.

And the war is not over…

It continues announcing to us bad news every day that kills the seeds of hope that

keep us alive.

Don’t forget that we are under embargo. An embargo that affects the population on a daily basis. An embargo that impoverishes the poorest. An embargo that makes us people of beggars.

We need your friendship, your solidarity and your support to explain the suffering of our people. Your prayer supports our daily life, but your action with decision- makers is important.

Tell them that we are people worthy of living humanely like any other people on earth. Tell them that we are people rooted in culture and civilization for thousands of years. Tell them that the Syrian people choose peace as the path to rebuild everything that is destroyed.

The Blue Marists

With our people and for them, we, the Blue Marists, act. We continue to sow this hope.

On February 15, we were received by the President of the Republic and the First Lady. They wanted to thank us for all the services we provided to the local community during all the years of war. They see in us a model of the ideal Syrian society: a model of openness and solidarity, an example of defending the interests of the poorest. They invited us to develop our humanitarian actions.

They insisted on the importance of the values we live and on the programs, we deploy in favour of the employment and of the development of the human person and the place of the woman in our society.

They explained to us their vision for the future of the country and especially during the next step after the establishment of peace.

On the way back, on Sunday February 16, 2020, Aleppo was living moments of joy and jubilation: the western suburbs that were occupied by the terrorists who threatened the city, had just been liberated.

From this moment, we continue to deepen the answer to the question: “What initiatives does the city and its inhabitants need at this stage of peace?”

The Marist projects

Our educational projects “I Want to Learn” and “Learn to Grow” are going well. Children are getting ready to celebrate Mother’s Day, which occurs in Syria on March 21. The teaching of values, sport, music, in the personal accompaniment of each child and often of his family, the interest in the social life and in the mental and physical health form collectively our education that is well anchored in the Marist charism.

The project “Seeds”, with all its components, Lotus and Bamboo, continues to offer young adolescents a space for a foundation of values and the expression of feelings. More than 350 young people benefit from the accompany in their personal, mental and social development.

The project “Cut and Sew” finished its 7th session and awarded diplomas to 17 women who, for 60 hours, regularly attended this training. In addition to their satisfaction and thankfulness, all of them highlighted the quality of the relationship woven between them. Many have noted the value of discovering each other and the importance of working together.

Twenty women are participating in a training as part of the women’s development project. They express their happiness at being trained on different psychological, human, relational and especially personal themes.

This year, we welcomed in our premises the association “The Footprint of Happiness”. It is a workshop for 30 mentally disabled adults. Their presence among us is a blessing from heaven.

We continue, every Wednesday and Sunday, to run activities and to distribute essential food and products to the camp “Shahba”, a camp for displaced persons in the region of Afrin that is occupied by the Turkish army since February 2018. We feel a great weariness among these displaced people. Our presence and our support are a great relief for these families. They have expressed their concern several times if, for one reason or another, we are absent.

MIT organizes training sessions on different topics that interest adults, especially in the fields of psychology, economics and computer science. Growing waiting lists force us to exceed the limits of 24 participants per session.

But it is especially in the training of entrepreneurship for micro-projects that the demand is great. Many people ask to be trained to be able to launch their own micro-project. We are happy to provide to the people of Aleppo this training service which prepares a better future for a multitude of young and older people.

Heartmade is growing rapidly. We have increased the number of seamstresses by hiring several women. We are planning to expand the workshop space. We will open soon a boutique in one of the best Mall in Damascus.

Let’s live like brothers

As I finish my letter, the words of Martin Luther King come to mind: “We must learn to live together like brothers, otherwise we will all die together like idiots.” Let’s live like brothers!

Let’s build the civilization of love together! Let us make our earth a space of harmony! Let us return to men their humanity!
Let us be witnesses of the light! Let’s expand the space of our tent!
Let us hold the hand of the most deprived! Let’s lift our heads!

Let’s form a chain of humanity around our planet.

____________

Fr. Georges Sabe – For the Blue Marists

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The Institute of the Marist Brothers (FMS: Fratres Maristae a Scholis), founded in France in 1817 by St. Marcellin Champagnat, is the second largest congregation of Brothers in the Catholic Church.  

An encounter with a dying young man, Jean-Baptiste Montagne, who knew nothing of his faith and was barely able to read, proved to be the defining moment for Marcellin Champagnat.  Soon after the boy’s death, St. Marcellin put into motion his vision.  “We need brothers,” he said, who will give their lives in the service of children and young people, especially those most in need and neglected by society.  

Champagnat, a man of great faith and trust in God’s providence, dedicated his early followers to Mary, sending them among young people, especially those least favored, to “make Jesus known and loved.”  The initial focus of his work was to provide education for children in rural, areas since this was a pressing need at the time, and provided an opportunity for their faith development.  

Today the community numbers about 3,000 members.  They are joined by a network of nearly 40,000 lay people and reach over 700,000 children and young people in 80 countries.  You will find this Marist network working in schools and universities, pastoral and social centers, youth movements and youth programs and wherever they find young people most in need.

El Instituto de los Hermanos Maristas (FMS: Fratres Maristae a Scholis), fundado en Francia en 1817 por San Marcelino Champagnat, es la segunda congregación de hermanos más numerosa de la Iglesia Católica.

Un encuentro con un joven moribundo, Jean-Baptiste Montagne, que no sabía nada acerca de su fe y que era apenas capaz de leer, se reveló como el momento decisivo para Marcelino Champagnat. Inmediatamente después de la muerte del niño, San Marcelino puso en práctica su visión. “Necesitamos hermanos”, dijo, que den sus vidas al servicio de los niños y jóvenes, especialmente los más necesitados y olvidados por la sociedad.

Champagnat, un hombre de gran fe y confianza en la providencia de Dios, consagró sus primeros seguidores a María, enviándoles entre los jóvenes, especialmente los más desfavorecidos para “dar a conocer a Jesús y hacerlo amar”. El primer objetivo de su trabajo fue ofrecer una educación a los niños de las zonas rurales, porque era una necesidad urgente en aquel tiempo, ofreciéndoles así una oportunidad para crecer en la fe.

En la actualidad los miembros de la congregación son unos 3.000. Junto a ellos trabaja una red de unos 40.000 laicos que atienden a más de 700.000 niños y jóvenes en 80 países. Esta red marista trabaja en colegios y universidades, centros sociales y  pastorales, movimientos juveniles y programas de formación para la juventud y en cualquier lugar en el que encuentren jóvenes necesitados.

Congregazione dei Fratelli Maristi (FMS: Fratres Maristae a Scholis) fu fondata in Francia nel 1817 da S. Marcellino Champagnat ed è oggi la seconda congregazione maschile (di fratelli) della Chiesa per numero di professi.
L’incontro con Jean-Baptiste Montagne, un giovane di 17 anni in punto di morte, analfabeta e senza formazione religiosa, fu un momento cruciale per Marcellino Champagnat. Poco dopo la morte del giovane, egli volle dare seguito ad un’idea che gli era balenata in seminario. “Abbiamo bisogno di fratelli”, disse, “che diano la loro vita per il servizio ai bambini e ai giovani, specialmente quelli più bisognosi e dimenticati dalla società”.
Champagnat, un uomo di grande fede e fiducia nella Provvidenza divina, consacrò i suoi primi seguaci a Maria e li mandò tra i giovani, specialmente i più emarginati, per “far conoscere ed amare Gesú”. Fin dall’inizio la sua missione fu incentrata su bambini n età scolare delle zone rurali, poiché l’istruzione era una necessità urgente al tempo e poiché rappresentava una formidabile opportunità di evangelizzazione.
Oggi la Congregazione annovera circa 3.000 religiosi affiancati da quasi 40.000 laici; insieme essi assistono più di 700.000 bambini e giovani in 80 paesi del mondo.
I Maristi, religiosi e laici, prestano la loro opera in scuole e università, centri pastorali e sociali, movimenti e programmi giovanili e ovunque ci siano bambini e giovani bisognosi da assistere
.