Aleppo is Burning: Three Days in the Life of a City Under Siege

The following report is written by an Aleppo-based Jesuit priest, who preferred to remain anonymous.

Dec. 8, 2016

In the last few days the news has come in thick and fast. The government forces have been retaking the zones that it has lost control of ever since 2012. The people here are hoping this military action will finally eject the rebels and that we will no longer have their shells falling on us.

The Jesuit Centre at the Church of St. Vartan has also been hit, as the photo below shows. Its caption: “The walls are charred and blackened, our crucified Lord riddled with bullet holes, mutilated… But for five years He has remained like that on the cross, in solidarity with our suffering and isolation. He is still there, disfigured, like our city, revealing to us the suffering of God, faced with the savagery of men.”

Civilians from the eastern zones are beginning to flood in. Sadly, many associations, and indeed even humanitarian organizations, are jumping at the opportunity to make money. Everybody is trying to provide psychological support. It is easy to do and very profitable. You put on a bit of music, you dance around the place; it doesn’t matter if the children who take part are cold or not; it doesn’t matter if they take part in your party or not; it doesn’t matter if this is their most overriding need, or if they are in a psychological state that allows people to actually benefit from this so-called “psychological support;” all that matters is to do the work and get money.

But there are worse things – like the organizations that turn up in great numbers when there is a television camera filming, but then disappear again as soon as the filming stops. Other people are going in with food and distributing it by throwing it to people as if they were wild animals and not human beings.

In Jibrine (west of the airport), where they are assembling and giving shelter to the refugees, we have got to know the Palestinian Red Crescent. This organization is trying to really do something, but doesn’t have the resources.

9 December 2016

Apparently a thousand refugees have arrived in Jibrine. They are hungry and they urgently need immediate assistance.

11 December 2016

It was yesterday evening around 5.45PM. Every Saturday the people come to the residence for half an hour of meditation, followed by Holy Mass at 6PM. Suddenly there was a violent explosion, followed by a second. I threw myself on the ground and a third explosion followed. After a few moments of calm, I emerged from my office to see devastation everywhere. Then there was a fourth explosion and I threw myself on the ground again on the debris of the broken glass. Four grenades did their damage

Sometimes, in the face of disaster, people think that God should not have allowed it to happen. But we, who live with death—by choice, for we could avoid it by moving out of the city—can see that God is always there; His providence alleviates the evil to the extent that man’s free will “permits” it.

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