From Syria, a Christmas letter from the front lines
"Heartening news is beginning to come to us from the West where a certain number of countries, encouraged by his Holiness Pope Francis, have begun trying to find a negotiated solution to the war which is tearing apart our country."
By Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart
Christians all over the world are preparing the beautiful feast of Christmas with its humble and heavenly scenes bringing joy, warmth and hope to the hearts of young and old, everywhere in our disenchanted and sad world! We also in Syria are wishing for a Christmas of joy and consolation in the midst of this shameful war which has ravaged our country for almost four years now. Mothers mourning for their children killed and widows for their husbands lost.
Many families have been losing everything, they are in need and suffer hunger and cold, shells and bombs destroyed their homes and demolished their business, leaving them without any penny in hand. Truly, we are suffering greatly because of what is happening to us but with the humblest and the poorest, we wait anxiously but with patience and great hope for the Lord to bring us this year the gift of PEACE for the happiness of our people and for all the nations suffering in the world.
I do not want to dwell on this note of sadness during this blessed season. I know that the Lord can bring consolation, comfort and especially joy to those who trust in Him in their distress! The greatest tribulations, war and the wickedness of those who have not known God, cannot hinder the flow of tenderness and mercy which Jesus pours generously on his own!
We will do everything in our power so that Christmas this year may be a real Feast for our faithful in Aleppo, a Christmas generous in celebrations and festivities, heartened by the comforting news from political deciders and from our friends and benefactors who have expressed with generosity their loving support and solidarity. All this with plenty of gifts of all sorts, which we are preparing this year for the young as well as for the old!
Heartening news is beginning to come to us from the West where a certain number of countries, encouraged by his Holiness Pope Francis, have begun trying to find a negotiated solution to the war which is tearing apart our country. Echoes of talks which are rather positive and conciliating are reaching us from here and there—and this is sparking within us hope for better days for our country! Evidently this is a cause for rejoicing for Christians as we approach Christmas. We hope that the New Year will announce a Year New marked by reconciliation and concord
If my clergy and I are applying ourselves in preparing carefully the religious ceremonies for the Nativity of our Savior, we are at the same time preparing carefully our social and charitable activities to reassure our people and better serve them. Thanks to generous donors, dear friends, we are this year able to continue to offer significant support to a growing number of families. We will continue to pay the school fees for their children. We will offer well-stocked food baskets every month. Our emergency fund will continue to sustain at the end of each month the men who have families and have no jobs and no revenue. We will take care of their medical needs and sometimes even find lodgings when they have to move.
Over and above these services, we have decided this year to help more than a thousand families by supplying them with heating fuel which has become very expensive and is essential here in Aleppo where the winters are freezing. In a word we will do all we can to comfort the faithful who remain in the city, to lighten their load and to reassure them in this time of great desolation.
The Nativity of the Lord is the feast of welcome and of Hope. This feast cannot be celebrated without joy in the hearts and smiles on the lips, this is why I have asked the priests of the archdiocese to organize, each one in his parish, the festive celebrations thanks to a grant coming from the diocesan fund of social works: Cribs and Christmas trees for the children, parties, raffles and Christmas plays for the youth and friendly gatherings for the adults.
And, as we have done for the past ten years on this feast of Jesus the new-born and of Mary mother of us all, here at the Archbishop’s House we will not miss our encounter with the mothers, to congratulate them and to thank them for their devotedness
With my gratitude and all my thanksgiving for all you are doing to help us through these times of trial, and with my benediction, I offer you my best wishes for the New Year, for good health, joy and happiness.
December 19, 2014
Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart heads the Melkite Archdiocese of Aleppo, Syria, site of some of the heaviest fighting of Syria’s ongoing civil war. This letter was addressed to local faithful and made available to Aid to the Church in Need.
ACN photo: Archbishop Jeanbart