God’s Grace Shines a Light in Syria’s Darkness

By Eliane També

syrian-christiansALEPPO, Syria—War rages on in Syria. Aleppo, the country’s major business center—what’s left of it—is a city at war, subject to regular bombardments by various factions fighting for dominance. Last year, a mother of two sons, 48-year-old Joumana Jarjour, a Melkite Catholic, was gravely wounded by scrapnel from a rocket that landed and exploded right in front of the family home.

She and her husband Alexan Saba, an out-of-work auto mechanic, were standing on their balcony, waiting for their boys—teenagers 14 and 15-years-old—to get home from school. Joumana almost did not make it.

She was given a couple of days to live, after doctors discovered a large piece of scrapnel inside her body, close to her heart and neck, areas of the body to delicate to perform surgery on. Then it happened. Joumana remembers “fervently praying.” “I love life and wanted to have a chance to go back to work to help my husband who lost his job,” she said recently; “and I was not ready to let go of my two sons.”

She saw “Jesus Christ smile” in a picture hanging before her on the wall, and right then she knew that “He responded to my request and that I would live.” Many surgeries later, Joumana is back on her feet.

What’s more, this brave mother just enrolled in training program sponsored by the Melkite Archdiocese of Aleppo; she has enrolled in a course for beauticians offered by the Church’s “Build to Stay Program.”

The brainchild of Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart, the initiative offers local Christians who’ve lost their jobs during the civil war a chance to pick up the pieces—to up-date their skills, learn a new trade, or get a modest subsidy to relaunch their small business or repair their shops or studios.

“Build to Stay,” which the archbishop describes as part of social movement rallying local Christians to a fresh commitment to stay put and rebuild their city and country—is designed to lay the foundation for a future for the local Christians. Its programs are harbingers of a future of self-sufficiency and promise for a better life once, God-willing, the fighting will have come to an end—something some Church leaders believe is more likely now that Russia has joined the fight against Islamic extremists in Syria.

For Joumana, the prospect of a professional career is “part of the promise of the Lord,” made that one dark night, when she saw that “beautiful and charming smile.”

Directly under the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity - helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action. Founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An Outstanding Apostle of Charity,” the organization is now at work in over 145 countries throughout the world. The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 43 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide. For more information contact Michael Varenne at michael@churchinneed.org or call 718-609-0939 or fax718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384. www.churchinneed.org
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