Author: Salesian Missions

Publication Date: July 13, 2023

Bright Signs of God’s Mercy in Syria

On February 6th, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Gaziantep in southern Turkey—and the shock of its devastation rippled across the globe. Just a few months later, that shock has mostly faded from the world’s collective memory. Though not for the millions of people in Turkey and Syria who still struggle with the disaster’s heartbreaking aftermath.

“Rest assured, our Salesian missionaries serving in both countries have also not forgotten,” says Father Timothy Ploch, interim director of Salesian Missions. “Their attention remains laser-focused on the children and families who still need assistance.”

Because the catastrophic earthquake struck an area of the world already ravaged by war and its aftermath, this attention could not be more crucial. In Syria, more than ten years of conflict has created a persistent humanitarian crisis that still affects more than four million people. Millions more Syrian refugees currently live in parts of Turkey affected by the earthquake. And Turkey itself is grappling with an economic crisis on top of it all.

Thanks to the immediate outpouring of support from generous friends like you, our Salesian missionaries are doing everything they can. In the words of Cezar, a Salesian cooperator in Aleppo, their efforts offer “bright signs of God’s mercy, even when all around is dark.”

At first, missionaries concentrated on humanitarian relief—especially in and around Aleppo, one of the earthquake’s worst-hit areas.  For instance, nearly 800 people who lost their homes took shelter at the Don Bosco House there. Salesians and volunteers also distributed emergency food rations to those stranded in remote villages; helped repair damaged homes; provided educational continuity for children whose schools had crumbled; and supplied vouchers for basic necessities.

“In Syria, we find ourselves in a situation of critical poverty due to the war and the earthquake,” explains Mateo, a young Salesian volunteer stationed in Aleppo. “The basic salary in the country is 150,000 lira (55 euro), but two hours of electricity a day for a week costs 100,000 lira.” With help from Salesian Missions donors, more than 220 families received a monthly economic voucher; 116 families received a single voucher for electricity; and another 220 families received vouchers for other essentials.

Families who fled to Kafroun discovered physical relief and psychological solace as well.

“After the earthquake, my family and I fled to the Kafroun area. We felt great fear at the beginning. Like someone receiving a big slap after a 12-year war,” explains AbdulMalik, 11, wise beyond his years. “And when we arrived, we were invited to attend the activities offered at the Salesian Center … I lived new and beautiful experiences … they also gave us food every day.”

“I did not feel surprised when I came to Kafroun, because it was the second time I was displaced here because of the war, but it was the first time I came to the Salesian Center,” says Iman. “I was very happy to meet the staff at the Center, they treated us with great love … I felt like I was in a family.”

“The situation is calmer now,” explains one Salesian missionary serving in Aleppo. “The need is still great, but in these months we have helped many people. Emergency projects will end this month to make room for reconstruction and other educational and care projects for children and young people. We continue to work on providing psychological assistance and helping them overcome trauma.”

“If our experience in Haiti after the horrific earthquake there years ago is any indication, I expect my fellow Salesians in Syria will lead and effect true transformation in the months and years to come,” concludes Fr. Tim.

If you would like to be part of this critical, life-saving work, please consider supporting our dedicated Turkey and Syria Earthquake Relief Fund.

Learn more about our work in Syria.

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