Letter by Fr. Bahjat from Damascus

Giacomo Pizzi4 December 2020

Dear friends,

in this period, we are experiencing dramatic times throughout Syria, because the consequences of the embargo weigh more and more on the entire population and force us to make enormous efforts. Inflation has reached the point that the costs are unsustainable for families. Prices have risen and salaries have fallen. Before the war, a teacher earned around 800 euros, now he earns 40 or 50.

The price of bread in the shops is inaccessible for families (every day for 5/6 people it would cost about € 1.5) and in the government bakeries, where there are special agreements, the same amount of bread costs 50 cents. In these bakeries, however, he sometimes waits even four or five hours. Lately, even wheat has been hit by a misfortune: in certain parts of the country the rebels – supported by Western politics – have burned entire lands and the lack of flour affects all families.

A mother said that one day she went at 3 in the morning to get bread from the bakery and waited until 7, over four hours, but the bread was finished. Another boy told me that one day, when he came home from school, he didn’t find the bread and went to buy it. He waited until 6.00, but the bread was already out.
Day after day these experiences have begun to cause despair in the lives of so many people, depriving them of the hope of a better future. For a long time it was difficult to find gasoline and people had to queue up to 7-8 hours in front of the gas station. In addition, gasoline is often diluted, dirty and damages the machines.

To buy gasoline, a young man was forced to regularly miss his evening meetings with other peers at the church.
Beyond all, it was wonderful to see that, knowing the shared difficulties, the time spent queuing for gasoline increased the unity between people. In these circumstances I realized that in our community the faith of the people deepens even more in our One good.

Not only our community gathered, but the whole community of Damascus and consecrated persons gathered in our parish, to be together and strengthen their relationships. It was a strong testimony of how these situations help to unite the forces and charisms of the Church allowing us to share all the joys and difficulties.

In recent months we have also renovated a room (about 50 square meters) under the parish to found a library and create a space for young people and their spiritual and theological needs. After 4 months of work we hope to be able to open it to the public this month. There will also be an area dedicated to a small museum (objects, ancient letters from the parish).

Another significant event of this period happened in recent days: the government held an international meeting (https://sana.sy/en/?p=209769) inviting twenty other countries, to evaluate how it could favor the return of Syrian migrants scattered around the world and rebuild our country, but it seems that this initiative has not brought the desired results. In fact, the biggest problem remains, that of the embargo, which prevents us from hoping for a better future. A young man of ours commented: As long as there is no bread for the people who live here, how could those who return live? ”

In the parish we continue to help families in situations of need with our humanitarian aid projects and with our team we continue to strengthen support:

for the distribution of food and cleaning kits through vouchers to 500 families;
for the distribution of diesel to 500 families;
for the supply of necessary medicines to 217 people with chronic diseases;
for surgical operations (350 people have been helped so far);
for the supply of nappies to the babies of 117 families;
for the payment of university expenses of 200 students.
Through these actions, we would like to guarantee, with the help of everyone, the hope of a better future even in this difficult situation.

Support the Damascus community too!