“We are a bit worried about the future, but we are fine”. The tone of voice is optimistic, the look is lively. The apostolic vicar of Aleppo, mgr. Abou Khazen, talk about the war in Syria and have the perception that it is almost a distant problem. “In Aleppo the situation is calmer. The services work, electricity arrives for 16 hours a day. It is a lively city, with traffic that has begun to clog the streets “.
Excellence, from what he says Aleppo really seems reborn …
We are recovering. I know that 2400 factories have opened in recent months. And others are preparing to reopen. It is an important sign, even if many displaced people are not returning: work is not enough, it is also necessary to rebuild the houses.
After eight years of war, at what point are we according to you?
Two major problems remain: the presence of foreign fighters (tens of thousands) and the role of foreign powers involved in this war. But after years we are all quite optimistic and we hope that a political solution will soon be reached.
How much is missing in the end?
There are still too many political and economic interests in the field. And the continuous international tensions do not help. For example, the fact that Trump has restored the sanctions against Iran will negatively affect the conflict and the confessional conflict still alive in the region.
Yet you speak of a peace that is possible …
Always, lived in our life and testimony of every day. We Christians try to be a bridge between the various groups, we have no problems with anyone. We try to instill hope for our faithful, because we want to help everyone on the path of reconciliation.
Are there any particular signs of what is being witnessed?
In particular, a project born from personal friendship with the Mufti. After the battle of Aleppo we noticed the thousands of abandoned children not even registered in the registry office, whose mother or father is unknown. Often born of rape and violence, they are the sons of the jihadists, the most terrible signs that this war is leaving us. Children without a name, and therefore without a future. The NGO ATS pro Terra Sancta provided us with the necessary funding to get started and is still helping us create the necessary space to accommodate more than 2,000 children. Let’s work together so that these little ones can have – one day – the same possibilities as anyone else. And the project is called – in fact – “A name and a future”.
How do you deal with them?
First of all, we help them enroll in the registry office, so that they can attend school. The parliament is still studying an ad hoc law to register them, but it is not easy. It comforts me, however, that there is a hypothesis of law, because otherwise these guys – when they grow up – what possibilities will they have if they do not exist for anyone? We then help them in all aspects, we anticipate a welcome and a psychological path so that they can one day overcome the traumas clearly visible on their faces.
Among the children you have received, is there anyone who has remained in your heart?
A few months ago, when I approached one of these children, he got scared. He was afraid of every man, he did not want to talk to anyone and he was closed to the world. When I could stand next to him for a few minutes I realized he could not smile. He started attending the center, and after a few weeks he started playing with the others, talking, studying. Some time later I came back to see him. Today is another person. Finally he smiles, and a child who smiles is the future of Syria.