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EU politicians Skype with children in Aleppo
"I feel very sad when I see the kids dying. I hope that God will bring everything back to its condition before and that God saves our country Syria."
By Mark von Riedemann
NEW YORK—This evening in Brussels, European Parliament Vice-President Antonio Tajani along with EU Special Envoy
for Religious Freedom and Belief Jan Figel, held a one-hour Skype call with
school children gathered in a Catholic church in Aleppo, Syria.
The children, both Christians and Muslims, told their personal stories and answered questions about their lives in a civil war that has lasted five years. In that time, more than 400,000 people died and close to 3,000 schools were destroyed, leaving 2 million of out 2.9 school-age Syrian children without a chance to study. The EU politicians were connected to both Muslim and Christian youth to draw attention to the fact that—unlike the situation in Iraq—Christians and Muslims are still united in Syria.
The Skype conference call is a follow-up to another ACN initiative, “Drawings for Peace in Syria,” which collected more than 1 million drawings from children and youth of all faiths, between the ages of 3 and 16. Earlier this fall, the drawings were offered to EU leadership in Brussels and UN officials in Geneva. The letters were presented Patriarch Gregorios III Laham, the head of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, Greek Orthodox Metropolitan George Abou Zakhem of Homs, and Syriac Orthodox Bishop Selwanos Boutros Al Nemeh of Homs.
The initiative also asked Syrian children to write letters. Among these was a letter from Razan, a fifth grader, who wrote: “I haven´t seen anything of my childhood. My home was destroyed. My life changed. I am afraid whenever I hear the sound of the explosions. A lot of sounds; I feel very sad when I see the kids dying. I hope that God will bring everything back to its condition before and that God saves our country Syria.”
Another short message comes from Shifa in sixth grade: “Father, I miss you but you will still be in my heart.”
A poem from 12 year-old Shan in Aleppo describes suffering in war:
“I am praying, God my
country is suffering
On the Skype call, 10-year-old Jean Paul said: “I don’t sleep at night because of the bombs. I have lost a lot of friends because of the war. We have lost our places to play – now we can only play at home because it is too dangerous.”
14-year-old Salim said: “I live in West Aleppo. We have war and we cannot live a normal life. If we go somewhere we are not sure if we will come back alive. All of my friends have died or have travelled to other countries because they are afraid to die. And we are also afraid of the bombs dropping on us. We hope you can bring peace to us.”
“I have grown up during the war and it is not easy to live like this because when we go to school we are afraid of being bombed and not to return to our homes,” said 10-year-old Syline, adding: “The bombs are falling on our houses – we have no water, our parents cannot work and there is no work in Aleppo and difficulties to eat and our parents cannot buy chocolate or meat and clothes. We hope that you can help us bring peace to our country.”
Finally, 10-year-old Christine said: “Each day I leave my house and each day I am not sure if I can return. My friends leave the country and leave me alone. Many of our friends are dead.”
There will be an exhibition of children’s drawings in a main hall at the European Parliament. At the same time, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has offered 18 of the drawings he received during the Patriarch’s visit to be part of an exhibition co-sponsored by UNICEF, called “Standing Strong: The Human Faces of the Syrian Crisis,” which is being held at the European Commission headquarters. These drawings, alongside ACN photos of Syrian children, will then travel to other EU venues during the first three months of 2017.