No 43 (April 4, 2022)
It is a pleasure, for FMSI, to share the newsletter from the Blue Marists of Aleppo. The Blue Marists are a Christian association of consecrated Marist Brothers and lay people. The association works in Aleppo (Syria) since 2012 and its motto is: “to live in solidarity with the poorest and the displaced to alleviate the suffering, develop the Human et sow Hope”. They actually have 150 volunteers who help them managing fifteen aid, educational and development programs to help the poor and the displaced families to survive, and to support the Christian families in order to encouraging them to stay in the Country and not migrate. The Blue Marists, together with the representatives of the Catholic Church of Syria, participated in the three-day Conference on “Church: House of charity, Synodality and Coordination” – held in Damascus from 15 till 17 March, 2022. Syria is suffering from an ongoing economic and social crisis, worsened now by the war between Russia and Ukraine, which exacerbates the shortage of essential goods. Nevertheless, the Blue Marists of Aleppo have not stopped their activities in favour of vulnerable people and FMSI has been supporting their activities for years. Please find below the newsletter from the Blue Marists of Aleppo.
“The Holy Father invites us to live a time of Synodality at the level of the universal Church. This term means “to walk together”. Following this invitation, the representatives of the Catholic Church of Syria (three Patriarchs, 17 bishops, the representatives of all religious Congregations and all charity associations of Syria) met in the desire to live a particular dimension of this journey under the theme “The Church, house of charity, Synodality and Coordination”.
This Conference was held in Damascus from March 15 to 17, 2022, bringing together more than 200 Syrian participants from all regions of the Country and 50 representatives of the Roman Curia and ROACO (the various international Catholic organizations for the aid of the Oriental Churches). Four Blue Marists participated to the meeting.
In his opening address, Cardinal Sandri, Prefect of the Dicastery of the Oriental Churches defined the objectives: To think, reflect, share and coordinate, “to also take on the burdens of the others”. He transmitted to us a message from the Pope Francis in which the Holy Father invites us to be, “by our initiatives, a tangible sign of the charity of the Church, nourished by the Gospel…”
In this time of serious economic crisis in Syria, it was important to meet, to share and coordinate our present activities and, above all, to try to envisage the future. As if the aftermath of the war and the Western economic sanctions were not enough to reduce the Syrian population to misery and precariousness, the war between Russia and Ukraine has come to aggravate the shortage of essential products and the economic crisis, and to multiply our misfortunes and our daily worries. From one day to the next, the prices climb in a vertiginous way. I will give you few examples: As electricity is always rationed (we have power for 2 hours a day only), the weekly subscription to 1 ampere from a private generator to light 2 bulbs and a mini refrigerator rose, in 15 days, from 12,000 Syrian Pounds to 18,000 SP; This means 72,000 SP per month, more than three quarters of an average monthly salary. Resigned and lacking the means, many families are forced to stay in the dark after sunset. Food prices are soaring. The price of a liter of vegetable oil rose in one week from 13,000 to 17,000 Syrian Pounds. We live in difficult times. The light does not point to the horizon.
As Blue Marists, we translate into our daily activities the message that the Holy Father addressed to the participants in the Damascus Conference, when he recalled the image used by Saint Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, of the members of the Church forming a single body: “Among the members of this body, there is listening, sharing of love, reciprocal support and above all an awareness of the role that each is called to play”.
The “Sharing Bread” project continues to offer a daily hot meal to 210 people over 80 y/o who live alone. These are people who often live in great loneliness and extreme poverty. We see how much these people need a tender and loving presence; how much they need to talk and tell themselves… For this, and within the framework of the formation of all our Marist volunteers and on the occasion of Lent, we have offered them to go and meet these elderly people. Two by two, they visited them to experience a moment of listening and sharing. Many asked them to come back. In addition to the daily hot meal, we have chosen to subscribe for 1 ampere for all those who are without electricity.
The children of the “I want to learn” and “I Learn to grow” educational projects were able to celebrate Mother’s Day on March 21. They hadn’t done it for 2 years because of the Covid 19 pandemic. The “Women’s Development program” and “Cut and Sew” projects have completed their training sessions. More than 60 women have taken advantage of it. Other women will benefit from the next sessions that will start these days.
The Medical project continues to bring relief to many patients. This is one of the heavy projects that we must pursue given the exorbitant cost of care and medication currently in Syria. We are discovering more and more violence in our young children and teenagers. The “Seeds” psychological support project provides an educational response to this explosion of violence (verbal and gestural) in an, often, personalized support.
We deeply believe that the best way to help our fellow citizens and our co-religionists to survive and to look to the future with a little serenity is to allow them to have a job and a means of subsistence in order to be independent of the aid provided by NGOs. This is why we are continuing our MIT program (training adults in various skills and teaching them how to manage their projects). Our Micro-Projects program finances their projects and supports them for three years. And our Professional Training program allows other adults to learn a trade in 2 years by being an apprentice with a professional. In our various projects, we, the Blue Marists, do neither alms nor charity. “Walking together” in a process of solidarity has been our charism from the beginning. Walking together is also living with the other who does not share our religious, worship and cultural convictions. It is to seek to resolve our differences by peaceful means. Walking together is a lifestyle choice.
And as the song of Jean Claude Giannada says:
“It only takes a tear for the world to cry, a single song to make it dance, a hand in my hand to start the round and if there are two of us, why not thousands? Come, open your door, come out from the depths of you, come, what you carry can give joy… Come, continue the story of the book of Love, Come, this dark night can become day! » I wish you a happy and holy Easter.”
Brother Georges Sabé for the Blue Marists