The testimony of Father Hanna Jallouf, parish priest of the Syrian village of Knaye
“The damages are enormous, we are putting in a lot of effort, but the situation is really difficult. Nevertheless, we always rebuild wherever possible.” Father Hanna Jallouf, who collaborates with the Association to assist the needy population, is one of those friars who rarely succumbs to discouragement, and even in the worst situations, he gets back on track with the enthusiasm and energy that have always animated him in these years.
We are in Knayeh, a small village in western Syria, still occupied by jihadist forces, like the entire province of Idlib. It is difficult to intervene in these places because they are isolated from everything. However, these are the countries where the greatest damages have occurred.
Father Hanna, how is the situation in the villages of the Idlib province?
Almost 80% of the houses in Knayeh have been destroyed. The village of Jdaide has also been severely damaged, but the greatest damages have occurred in Yacoubieh, starting from our convent and in the church, which has completely collapsed In Knayeh, our church has been partially demolished, and the old school is unusable. Several parts have collapsed from our convent, and certain areas are impassable.
What have you done in these months to respond to the emergency caused by the earthquake?
First of all, we reopened the roads and removed the garbage and dirt that had accumulated. Initially, it was impossible to pass through, and people immediately rolled up their sleeves to help. After reopening the roads, we saw some Christians who went to sleep at the refugee camp. It is the first time this has happened in all these years, and it is worrisome, a sign of a truly serious situation. We are slowly putting everything back in order. It will take a long time because there are not enough resources here to do everything. We are isolated.”
Were there any deaths as a result of the earthquake?
We thank the Lord: we didn’t have any deaths within our community, but we heard that two Muslim children near us have died.
How are the people in the nearby village of Yacoubieh?
In that little village, the damages have been more severe. The bell tower fell onto the church and pierced through the roof. Most of the houses are no longer there; only rubble remains. We would like to rebuild at least 50 houses in our villages, and another eighty houses need repairs. Unfortunately, in addition to the war, this earthquake has dealt a severe blow to the population.
How does the Christian community cope with this situation?
The parishioners remain steadfast in their faith, joy, and serenity. We have celebrated all the holidays, including Easter. In the month of May, we said the rosary together, and every day we manage to hold Mass with the community.
We have created two chapels for worship while waiting to rebuild the destroyed church. As Saint Paul would say, we are troubled but not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed, always carrying in our body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.