terremoto siria

In Aleppo, the digging continues between aid and solidarity

Veronica Brocca7 February 2023

“I tried to contact my mother and father, but they didn’t answer me because they had left their phones at home to escape into the street. I thought they were dead. But then I saw them in the street … thank God.” With a broken voice, the young Muna from Aleppo remembers the terrible moments she experienced last night during the earthquake that struck a Syria already on its knees.

Muna’s testimony, which our Pro Terra Sancta collaborator Giacomo Pizzi has collected in this interview , is not an isolated story.

Among the people who rescued themselves last night is Mariam, a Syrian mother. These are his words: “the walls of our house trembled to such an extent that from the cracks you could see outside; my husband Nerwan and I took our daughters and ran away to the convent.”

Pro Terra Sancta immediately took action to assist those affected by the tremors.

Franciscan Church of Aleppo

Rescue in the snow and fears

In “one of the greatest disasters in Turkish history,” as Turkish President Erdoğan called it, the casualties between Turkey and Syria have risen to more than 5,000. Experts speculate that there will be over 20,000.

In our fundraising campaign we also report updated data directly from Aleppo, where 20 assistance centers and shelters have been set up, two of which are managed by Pro Terra Sancta.

George, one of our clients, says: “When the earth shook, the inner wall collapsed divided in half. In the bathroom, the sink came off and all the furniture crashed to the ground. I ran outside with my wife, but the building was shaking and she fell asleep twice – I had to retrieve her, we thought it would never stop! Now we can’t go home.”

Aleppo mats
A man takes mats for the night, Aleppo 06/02/23
Knayeh Convent
Interior of the convent of Knayeh, 07/0223

The earthquake caught the Turkish and Syrian population in the middle of the night, at 4:17 am on Monday 6 February (2:17 Italian time). Many buildings, including the Franciscan monastery of Azizieh, remain unstable.

The Latin parish of Aleppo immediately took action to offer shelter, blankets and a hot meal to anyone in need.

Giacomo Pizzi, who has been on a mission in Aleppo since last Wednesday, says: “Monday night and today there were still aftershocks, some very slight. And the fear is great. Many women and children are seen sleeping outdoors. And the night is freezing in Syria.”.

Yacoubieh Church
Yacoubieh church destroyed by earthquake, Syria 07/02/23
Yacoubieh Church

In Aleppo, in the chaos of the destroyed city, men and ambulances carry bodies non-stop and check every house left standing to see if it is accessible or not.

Friar Hukas, parish priest of Aleppo, from his Franciscan parish reports the situation as follows: “In the afternoon the earthquake returned to hit the city again and the people, frightened, ran to us. As you can see, they are all refugees in a room under the church. Everyone has left the house, no one has security anymore. The soup kitchen we run, since yesterday it is no longer addressed only to the poor, but to all displaced persons. Now we are distributing dinner for them from our kitchen. Here we also say Mass and the Rosary. Everyone prays to the Lord with so much faith. We thank you so much for your prayers.”.

The situation is truly dramatic. Rescue operations are extremely arduous and roads covered with snow and bitter cold hinder and slow down rescues. In addition, Syria lacks means and men prepared to deal with this type of emergency, hospitals are already crowded and people urgently need food and blankets.

The hall of the Franciscan parish of Aleppo, 06/02/23

A chain of solidarity

Europe, the United States, Russia, China and many others moved early on to send aid to Turkey and Syria.

Pope Francis expressed his closeness on Twitter: I am close with all my heart to those affected by the earthquake in #Turchia and #Siria. I continue to pray for those who have lost their lives, for the injured, their families, the rescuers. May the concrete help of all of us sustain them in this terrible tragedy”.

Monsignor Mario Zenari, apostolic nuncio to Syria, is now in Aleppo and wishes to bring the Pope’s solidarity to all Syrians. In a video sent to us by Giacomo Pizzi states: “I want to be a sign of witness above all to the solidarity of the Pope and of the many churches that are ready to send aid. I will stay in Aleppo for a couple of days and then I will go to Latakia, which was also severely affected by the earthquake. I lived through 12 years of war, we saw so much suffering and no one imagined my further suffering. We do everything we can.”.

These three images were taken today in Latakia

Pro Terra Sancta immediately took action to concretely help the Syrian population by launching a fundraising campaign that will help in search and rescue operations. In these hours, the Association continues to provide basic necessities while digging continuously through the rubble.

In Aleppo, at least 50 buildings collapsed following the earthquake, and only yesterday more than 500 people went inside the Terra Sancta College to receive assistance and a hot meal.

We ask Anonymous What are the most immediate needs in the field: “We need all the help we can get, because we are starting to identify all the needs now. We need blankets, because it rains and it is very cold, there is no heating and there is no light. You also need food and water.” The fundraising campaign meets these urgencies.

Interior Knayeh convent
Interior of the convent of Knayeh, 07/02/23
Exterior convent Knayeh
Exterior of the convent of Knayeh, 07/02/23

The words of Fr. Bahjat

He also talks about what happened Bahjat Karakah, parish priest of the Latin community of Aleppo and collaborator of Pro Terra Sancta for projects to help the population, who reminds us that the Damage is not limited to the city of Aleppo, but also extends north to the villages where the Franciscan confreres are located in Knayeh and Yacoubiyeh, but also in Latakia.

These are his words on Monday: “ This morning we woke up around 4:00 with a very strong earthquake . We went downstairs and in fact many people had fled from the houses – escaped in the dark, by the way, because there is no electricity. Many people are under the rubble, surely there are still many victims. It is an earthquake that has a very large surface. Our charity kitchen, which usually gives almost 1,200 meals a day for the poor, will now do its utmost to help all those who have been left homeless and unable to eat. We ask for your support, your help and above all we launch this appeal to lift sanctions from Syria, so that we can rebuild and help those in need. Thank you.”

We also join the call to remove, or at least relax, the sanctions that prevent the reconstruction of the country and to be able to help those affected by the earthquake more quickly and effectively.

Friar Bahjat
Friar Bahjat welcomes people under the church