By Bishop Audo of Aleppo, Caritas Syria President
For two years Syria has been pulled apart by conflict. Violence and anarchy have become widespread. We have become conditioned by tragedy. Our minds and hearts have been constricted by fear and by caution. But I do my best to keep my heart and eyes open to what is happening. And I’m pained by the terrible poverty I see.
A few days ago, I was walking in Souleimanié, a Christian quarter in Aleppo. People were surprised to see me walking alone. Immediately they feared that I might be kidnapped. The kidnappings of two priests and two bishops have traumatized many Christians in Syria.
As I walked, I saw four children in their early teens sitting around a table on the pavement playing cards. They were the children of merchants. They no longer go to school but just send their time playing cards. A few metres on, I see another young teenager collecting money from passengers for a trip in a minibus.
It’s a shock to think that millions of Syrian young people now do not go to school anymore. I’d estimate that in Aleppo, four out of five children have given up going to school. Parents are too exhausted that they no longer can properly lookout for their children.
Education has become a luxury. A life of petty crime often the only option for the poor. It’s a huge waste. It’s a huge mess. Chaos and poverty surround us everywhere.
In the heavily populated residential area of al Miassar, there has been no water or electricity for three months. What can one do during the winter evenings? People resort to candles, but they cost money that we can ill afford.
One man I know in Aleppo bought a small second-hand generator so he’d have electricity. He runs it at night, but can only afford to keep it going for a couple of hours every other day. He and his neighbours must also find enough money to pay for another generator to pump water from a nearby well. They fill cans and carry 25 litres of water back to their apartments. People usually live on the uppers floors.
I know a young couple with three children, aged three to ten, who live like this. Their children no longer go to school but roam the streets in winter rain or summer sun. Such poverty isn’t unusual, its common place, affecting 80 percent of people in the city.
For Caritas, there is no question of giving up. We must stand up together, organise ourselves, train, meet and agree a way forward. Our plans to help the poor will always find the proper response. Our work must be inventive. Charity will always find a way.
Tragique vie quotidienne à Alep