The last stop of our trip to Syria is the most painful and surprising one. The wounds of war are still very visible. Yet Aleppo is trying to cure them, to become even more beautiful than before. The road to Damascus is still long, the interruption of the freeway leaves no other way to go through secondary and winding streets, but it is the only way to reach the Capital of the North. The rainfall we find on arrival is a gift to these arid places, but the drops on the dusty and abandoned furniture in destroyed houses make up a very sad picture.
We walk miles of rubble before we reach the parish of Saint Francis, where the friars welcome us with a surprising joy that impresses us every time. Only a few months have passed since our last visit, but the city has changed a lot. The people of Aleppo have come back to live, clogging the dirty and ruined streets with old and shaky cars. But this is a good sign: gasoline is back. And the horns are ringing continuously. Even the lights that are back in the houses are a great sign of newborn hope in the dark city of rubble.
Aleppo is a city that never lost its strength, despite everything. The many stories of courage and hope we met on our way try to illuminate a future that today seems to be made up of less shadows and a little more light. In the neighborhood of Azizieh (where the parish is located and where our main activities are centered) we visit the pastry shop opened by Khalil, and a few meters after the new ironmongery by George, even a snack shop right next to the parish. Months ago they were just closed shutters, today they are the sign of a slow but steady recovery.
“People need to work, we have received 400 requests of this kind, and we are working to allow – whoever they want – to work and live with dignity”. Father Ibrahim Alsabagh, the Latin parish priest of Aleppo, refers to a project begun with ATS pro Terra Sancta, which aims to open some startups thanks to small credits. “Usually they make a request and after a selection we select a few among them and give them a chance. It’s not easy and often they face big challenges, but their courage to jump into these businesses is pretty heroic” the Father tells us.
In two days it is difficult to visit everything that Fr. Ibrahim and his chart of charity are doing for this city. Up to today more than 2.000 people recieve aid from the parish through many activities: the school for deaf people in the Al Ram college, the newly restored homes that have been fixed by the parish staff (read more about the project ). “There are 900 requests, so far we have only restored 90,” says Noubar, an engineer involved in the project.
This is a drop in the ocean, of course, but Aleppo needs it in order to not die of thirst. We are forced to look at the half full glass by the smiling faces we saw in our tour.
The people of Aleppo are really grateful to all those who helped them during these years of war. Now they cannot wait to start over again. They will not give up, they want to run and win in their race towards a new future!