Aleppo, Syria is 'a dark city'
"This is our cry today: that peace in Syria is possible. This the only hope for us."
Ziad Hilal, is a Syrian Jesuit priest who spent several years serving the
Christian community in the Syrian city of Homs. He spoke Aug. 12 with international
Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, to report on his recent trip to
Aleppo, Syria’s second-largest city, which is hotly contested between the
regime and opposition forces.
What was the situation
like in Aleppo?
There is electricity for maybe one
hour, two hours, a day, but not every day. Then it is a dark Some people use
generators to get electricity for a few hours. But from midnight until morning
it is black—a dark city—and nothing happens.
city is divided between the opposition and the government, and people cannot
move between the different parts of the city. For many that meant not being
able to go to work, losing jobs, and losing their homes.
there any signs of hope?
The Churches and Christian
organizations provide a sign of hope. There are many services, funded by Aid to
the Church in Need, Jesuit Relief Services, other agencies, as well as the
local bishops, to help Christians to stay in their land—and also to offer aid
to the Muslim people. For example, there is a local soup kitchen that gives out
7500 meals a day; it is run by both Christians and Muslims, and many of the beneficiaries
are Muslims. The problem is Syria is not between Christians and Muslims—and this
relief work shows how our Church is working for reconciliation.
Can you give us an example of how families
There are many poor families
without work. One Catholic family has three children—ages seven, eight and 14—working
in a restaurant. Their father has died, we don’t know how, and their mother is
also working. I choked up when the owner of the restaurant told me he could not
say no to these children, even though business is slow—it’s because they are
helping their mother, the man said.
can you say about the military situation? Rebels have driven deeper into the
city, reports say.
It is chaos now—and
not only in Aleppo but throughout Syria; there is fighting everywhere; we speak
a lot about Aleppo but let’s not forget the other cities. It is the same
situation, our country is divided now. The only way out is through dialogue among
Syrians themselves. Using weapons we have not been able to arrive at a
resolution. We have to work for peace—that’s most important. This is our cry today: that peace in
Syria is possible. This the only hope for us.
Street scene in Aleppo; ACN photo