The Jubilee of Mercy in a city torn apart by civil war. Father Ibrahim Aisabagh, Parish of the Roman Catholic Church of St. Francis in Aleppo, talked with us about his experience.
After a short truce, five missiles hit Azizieh, a mainly Christian area not far from the Church of St. Francis, which, in turn, was recently hit by a grenade. The missiles strike the homes where people try to carry on with their daily life. Since the houses are very close to each other, the missiles can often destroy more than one building in one strike.
I was in the parish office with some employees when we heard some explosions. The first missile exploded about 150 meters away from the church. In those moments you hold your breath and pray, while you wonder whether other strikes will follow. Then we heard another explosion, this time it was closer. It was clear that the truce was already over. I tried to call the families living in the area where I supposed the missile had exploded on the phone, and then I rushed over there to rescue them. Even though I had already experienced such tragic events in the past, I never get used to such cruelty which hits unarmed people, in particular when it comes to the elderly or children.
When I arrived at the place where the explosion had taken place, I visited all the families living there. I could see the terror in their eyes, some people were seriously injured. However there were no dead people and I thanked God for that. When I went back home it was already dark. We had to wait for the morning after to verify the damages caused by the explosions.
In the sunlight of the following day the devastation around was even more evident. Some houses were completely destroyed, while in some others the explosion had blown out the doors and windows. But most of all, the inhabitants themselves were disoriented and psychologically devastated. They needed concrete signs of hope… I called a friend of mine who is an engineer, and with his help we managed to repair the houses in the following days. We also assisted those who were hospitalized. But there is still so much to do, our help is not enough to cover all the needs of these unfortunate people.
Despite all this, we can see a star that continues to shine in the sky of Aleppo: the Church, tender hand of God, is in action. The Church is in the streets beside those families hit by the tragedy, witnessing the Mercy of God. God’s help never fails and so we can always start over. This is not the first time missiles hit our area and certainly won’t be the last. So, in the madness of this war, we have discovered a new way to witness God’s mercy to people. Jesus said: “When I was sick, you visited me, when I was thirsty, you gave me drink…”. For us the Christian community in Aleppo, Jesus would have added: “When my house was bombed, you came to repair it, to visit me, console me, and pray with me”. (Y.H.)