Ruth Gledhill:Christian Today
At least if you get hit by a shell in Aleppo and die, you are released from pain.
This was the heartbreaking vision of a broken city where the people cry without tears, delivered by a Catholic nun in London yesterday.
Sister Annie Demerijan was speaking about life under the constant bombardment being sufferd in Syria’s second city.
Christians in Aleppo have fallen from 200,000 to fewer than 35,000 since the war began.
Sister Annie works in Aleppo to coordinate and deliver the emergency help supplied by the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, which organised an event at Westminster so members of Parliament and the House of Lords could hear her chilling testimony.
“The tears of grief have become dry from too much sadness but our people are persisting and resisting, awaiting the dawn but unable to see the horizon,” she said.
“They suffer silently and cry with no tears. The dreams of our people were great in the past when they dreamed and dreamed of the possibilities for their lives, but this brutal war has not left any place without destroying it: the country’s infrastructure, the people themselves together with their hearts and dreams.”
The people are “bleeding from their wounds” and crying over the tragedy of asylum-seeking and migration forced upon them.
The war has affected every home and every neighbourhood and every heart, she said.
“Let me tell you, what we are experiencing in Syria, especially the city of Aleppo, is indescribable and chilling. All human values given by God to man in order to live in peace and dignity have been obliterated from the scene.”
Aleppo has become “a broken city where life does not exist”. It has turned into the “city of death and devastation, destruction and violence,” with everyone living at the mercy of God, between fear of the unknown and the hope for peace.
There are severe food, medical, electricity and water shortages. Some people can no longer afford electricity and live in intense heat, in the dark and with no fans. In the winter, they cannot afford heating. “It is also a humiliation to see the children, the elderly and the women out seeking to bring water, far away from their homes under the hot sun, and tired in soul and body.” There are families who have not eaten fruit or meat for months.
“The person who is hit by a rocket shell and dies at least gets rest from pain. But he who does not die will be exposed to handicaps that he will endure all his life.” Some will have shrapnel in their bodies forever, but the psychological pain is much greater, especially for those with serious amputations.
“There is overwhelming despair of life because of the crisis in Aleppo. There is familiarity with death. It is an everyday experience. “
“Last week cylinder gas bombs rained down randomly on Aleppo, shells and missles too, destroying houses and shops, killing dozens of innocent people and leaving families in a dark sadness of pain and suffering. The question is, what is the sin committed by these innocents?”
Education has become an “impossible task”. Few children can study. They have become the “lost generation”. Children lack all the necessary things for their growth and development. By facing terrible atrocities at a young age, they learn that violence is another way to resolve differences, Sister Annie explained.
Most families that remain are thinking how they can leave. “Today, the strength of our people has collapsed.”
She asked: “I wonder how it is possible that while the world has evolved so far, with all these inventions, that we have not been able to refine the human soul, but on the contrary, we have made monsters who devour each other for some unknown or cruel reason.”
The world is a gift of God to human beings, she said. “A part of it is bleeding, hurt and sick. The fear is that this sickness will spread to the entire earth in which we live.”
After she spoke, Lord Alton of Liverpool, a trustee of Aid to the Church in Need, said: “You’ve opened our eyes our hearts and our minds. It seems like something from Dante, something from a vision of hell.”