May 2015

Emergency Syria, interview with Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa

“The humanitarian situation, particularly in Aleppo, is heartbreaking. There is no electricity or water, and people are living under constant bombardment”.

Fra Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Custos of the Holy Land and President of Association pro Terra Sancta, has recently returned from a short visit to Syria and still sees before his eyes the atrocities of a war now in its fifth year. He tells us about this in an interview with Association pro Terra Sancta.

Father Pizzaballa, what are the principal difficulties the population is facing?

The cost of living is rising daily. The health system is inadequate for responding to the bombardments. Our hospital in Aleppo is one of the few still functioning, but the few remaining doctors face many difficulties for working properly.

How important is the presence of the Franciscans for the local population?

It is essential to remain in Syria, because the people there need more than bread to survive. Sometimes a comforting word or a handshake is more important. We make no pretense of affecting the outcome of the war, but in this war we have the opportunity to change ourselves, to roll up our sleeves and get to work, to continue to believe that man is fundamentally good because he was created in the image of God, and to not allow the logic of war to become for us also the criteria by which we perceive all this violence.

Is there room for hope in Syria?

There are many small signs telling us that hope is possible and, I would add, it is an obligation. The poor are helping one another, particularly those who have lost their homes. Some have made space available in their homes to accommodate the displaced. I attended the funeral of a mother killed with her two daughters: there were as many Muslim women with headscarves attending the Mass to mourn together as there were Christian neighbors. It is a great sign of solidarity. It is not true that all relationships have broken down, as some would like us to believe. These are small things, I know. But they are nonetheless important signs, in this sea of hatred.

What are you asking from the Western countries and from each  one of us?

I am asking you not to forget, and to help financially the organizations that are firmly established in the country and that, despite this atrocious war, continue to work to build. It is important and necessary not to give up, to continue to believe that it is possible to do something, that this is not the end of our history, and that it is indeed possible to preserve that unique heritage the Middle East has maintained until the present day

What Association pro Terra Sancta is doing and how you can help us

You can also be alongside the Franciscan friars and the 4 reception centers, which are providing for the basic needs of the poorest among the Syrian people.

They are providing food and milk to children, clothes, glasses, medicines, medical care including operations; temporary accommodation for those whose homes have been destroyed by shellfire; and they are paying rents, travel expenses to escape the fighting, and school fees.

Here is how we use your donations:

  • 30 euros: allows us to purchase food, drinking water and medical care for children
  • 50 euros: we can provide blankets in a reception center
  • 100 euros: covers the school fees for a child, thereby keeping him (or her) off the streets
  • 250 euros: supports the purchase of a piece of medical equipment for the hospital in Aleppo or the monthly rental for a family

Make a donation today for Syria!

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