A few days before Christmas 2016, Aleppo was liberated and unified after four years of war and violence. Divided city, almost total siege, bombing blindly on the districts which sown terror and death among civilians, unemployment, electricity completely cut out and atavic lack of water resources.
The liberation of the city on the part of the regular army marked a new stage in the Syrian war: the hope and the incentive to free the rest of the country from terrorist groups, and in a special way has removed the fear of the division of Syria, as well as the possibility to create a modern state where different ethnic and religious groups can live in peace and harmony.
Time to celebrate an event so important as the liberation of the city shall now leave place to the major challenges that await us for our future:
1 – After having freed and united the neighbourhoods between them through road networks, it is necessary to re-unite and reconcile the inhabitants.
2 –To overcome the trauma of war and terror that struck all the inhabitants, and in particularly the children and young people.
3 – To give assistance to orphan children. The statistics speak of more than two thousand children in this condition; the government is trying to save them by providing them with the necessary documents.
4 – Many children have not been able to attend school for four or five years. This gap of education and teaching must be filled.
5 – We need to deal with an entire population remained a job nor money because of the continuing conflict.
6 –The reconstruction of destroyed buildings, including the markets of the old city, the public and religious buildings, for example the entire heritage of the Churches of Aleppo, destroyed or partially damaged.
7 – This problem is also connected with the need to provide accommodation to the families left homeless.
8 – A great challenge is to bring back the confidence in people and to wipe out the distrust on other ethnic communities.
9 – Many families that migrated, are now returning to Aleppo. This phenomenon must be encouraged, helping those who had an activity to start again.
10 – Within the Christian community we are questioning about our future. One thing is certain: the Church in Aleppo and throughout Syria will no longer be the same. This conflict has created a before and an after. In Aleppo, we are thinking of about organising an inter-community Synod involving all the Catholic practices present in the city (six practices with six bishops).
The needs and the challenges are many and complex, but the will of the people to live and rebuild will triumph over the fears and the inevitable difficulties. May the Lord give us his peace for the good of Syria and of the entire region.
+ Georges Abou-Khazen – Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land and the Apostolic Vicar of Aleppo