July 2016

“Love is the First Commandment”: The Witness of the Summer Camp of Aleppo

Yesterday, the Aleppo Summer Camp resumed its term, which had been interrupted by the escalation of violence in the previous week. Dozens of rockets have been fired at, and caused great damage in, the area around the Franciscan Saint Anthony School (one of the properties of the Custody, which in recent years has been supported by the Custody of the Holy Land). No strike on the monastery itself, but the neighborhood has been greatly damaged.

From the city – which has become a symbol of the civil war – speaks Fr. Firas Lufti, vice pastor of the Latin Rite parish in the city:

One rocket fell in an amuesement park causing the death of many children who were having fun during Eid al-Fitr [the Islamic festival celebrated after the close of Ramadan]. The hospital in front of our school could not help the wounded and maimed – who were for the most part children – quickly enough. Yesterday, we were not able to sleep for the whole night. Continuous gunfire and bombings. One of the women who frequents our monastery lost her house due to a missile that destroyed practically all of it. We had to suspend the summer camp we had organized for the children of the parish. We fear that this escalation will last for the length of this period. Even the adult catechism class, which we have ever Monday following the 6:00 mass, has been suspended until this period of intense bombing has ended. In short, nothing is resolved. There is talk of truce, but the idea is abandoned before it is even posed.” “We are still in the hands of the Lord,” confesses the Franciscan, who concludes with words of hope: “Pray for us that the Lord will grant us peace, for which we have waited and hoped for so long.”

The number of victims is at least 40, with another 200 injured. For this reason, the activities of the summer camp began with a visit by the kids to their wounded friends and classmates. Because, as Fr. Firas explains, “Charity is the first commandment; in fact, the only one. This is what we teach the kids in the summer camp.

Even in a moment so terrible for France and the rest of the world, the incessant witness of the Christian community of Aleppo leaves us speechless. Please help support this presence of mercy, the authentic reaction against evil, which represents a concrete possibility for a more beautiful and just tomorrow in Syria.

You too can support the Franciscans in Aleppo!

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