Time and again, when brutal wars, catastrophic disasters and relentless civil strife threaten the very lives of the children and families in our care, Salesian missionaries stand with, and for, them in solidarity. At great risk to their own lives, they offer their resources, support and love to those who seek an oasis of hope amid a desert of fear. In Syria, and wherever there is hardship and despair, these heroic missionaries will remain.
Despite what the United Nations deems “a serious deterioration in the humanitarian situation,” in Syria, Salesian missionaries in Aleppo have deepened their commitment to its people.
For five agonizing years, an escalating civil war has destroyed the city of Aleppo. A constant barrage of heavy artillery, rocket fire, bombs and home-made explosives have destroyed almost every home, business and public space. Bridges have crumbled, roads are impassable, and water and electricity are scarce. The only people who remain are those with no resources to escape. These innocent civilians have increasingly become targeted by the rebel fighters.
“The fighting does not spare anyone,” says Father Pier Jabloyan, a Salesian missionary born and raised in Aleppo, where he now serves. “We are living an injustice, a scandal that will remain imprinted in the minds of all humanity.”
Despite the death and destruction, Father Luciano Buratti, another missionary living in Aleppo, vows that “our Salesian community has chosen to continue our activities. We try to offer families a place where they can breathe stability and harmony even in the midst of chaos.” Fr. Luciano notes that the Salesian center is one of the few buildings in Aleppo that continues to operate normally.
In April, during a time of intensifying violence, missionaries suspended activities at the center in order to welcome more than 200 families in need of basic necessities and the comfort of others. In fact, the youth center and Salesian House are among the few remaining places where these families and the greater community can access clean water and electricity.
“This is because of our commitment to infrastructure, especially when it comes to water,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions. “Water is essential for life, especially in areas threatened by war and other disasters. We are grateful to be able to offer this precious resource to the people of Aleppo who so desperately need it.”
Every day, families arrive to bathe, drink safe water, eat healthy meals and get away from the violence. Members of other parishes who have lost their places of worship also gather there for Mass and encouragement. And even more recently, at the beginning of June, our missionaries launched summer activities for more than 800 local girls and boys, who arrive at the center each morning.
“We are trying to light a small lamp of hope in their hearts,” says Fr. Pier. “With great prudence and care, we bring the children to the oratory by bus, so they may spend a few hours in serenity. When the playground is full of children, we feel inspired for the future.” Fittingly, the theme of these summer activities is “mercy.”
As the summer continues, the entire Salesian community asks you to join them in prayer for Aleppo. You may join Fr. Pier in offering your intention during this short video.
Our mission brings solidarity and hope to those suffering the effects of war, violence, disaster and despair. What’s your mission?