Starting yesterday, and through to Friday, we will offer you a variety of stories which, along with describing to you the situation as it is lived by Christians in Syria, will also offer you poignant testimonials from the religious personnel on site and from the people living through this unspeakable tragedy.
You will see, though Syrians have a capacity for resilience which is quite remarkable, their suffering remains a weight that they cannot bear alone. Prayer, information and action can help them continue to move ahead on their journey, despite the formidable challenges they face. How can you support them?
Across denominational boundaries: Catholics help Orthodox Christians in Syria
By Oliver Maksan, ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Al-Hasakah is located in the north-east of Syria. The area is mainly populated by Kurds, but there is also a Christian community there. Like all those who live in Al-Hasakah, they are also suffering because their area is virtually cut off from the rest of the country. The reason for this is that the islamist terrorist militia ISIS controls the surrounding regions. “The families in Al-Hasakah are in great need. They have to go without power and water for days on end. Many of them don’t even have enough to eat,” says Sister Annie Demerjian. “Al-Hasakah is a forgotten city. In Aleppo, where I live, the situation is also disastrous. But nobody talks about Al-Hasakah.”
This Armenian-Catholic Sister belongs to the community of the Sisters of Jesus and Mary. In Aleppo she organizes help for people in the war-ravaged town, which is quite enough to keep her busy. But when she heard about the precarious situation of the people in Al-Hasakah she decided to help them. “We share what we have. I can’t get to Al-Hasakah myself. The overland route passes through ISIS territory. That’s too dangerous for Christians. We therefore work together with a Syriac-Orthodox priest in Al-Hasakah. He organizes help for the people there. Through him we support about 100 Christian families. We hope that there will be more in future.”
It is not easy sending relief into this area. “In the past year we had to resort to a ruse. We wanted to send more than 600 anoraks for children and young people by bus to Al-Hasakah. But we were warned that ISIS could confiscate the goods if it was evident that they were coming from Christians for Christians. We were therefore helped by friendly Muslims who entered the name of a Muslim as the sender and a Muslim as the recipient on the delivery note. It worked,” she explained and still expresses pleasure at the trick’s success.
Aid to the Church in Need supports the work of Sister Annie and her Orthodox partner in Al-Hasakah. “Last October and December we distributed 100 litres of heating oil to the families with the help of Aid to the Church in Need. And we managed to supply the families with oil again in January. This is very important in view of the winter.” Besides heating oil – sanitary articles, food and medicines are also being distributed to the needy families in Al-Hasakah.
Sister Annie regards this inter-denominational aid as a matter of course. “We are all Christians and we’re in the same boat. When it comes to aid it doesn’t matter whether someone is Chaldean or Syriac-Orthodox, or whatever. All that counts is the degree of need.” Every day, Sister Annie reports, Christian families are leaving the Al-Hasakah region on account of the hardship, mostly over the Turkish border. “Our aid is crucial to enable them to stay. Otherwise we will lose even more Christians.”
Tomorrow : “ The Lord acts subtly, but He acts”
“You can’t imagine in what kind of circumstances the family was living. It was damp and cold in that cellar. It is like a catacomb.”