Witnesses from Syria: Sister Iole, missionary of hope in Damascus
“The heart of Syria in Damascus is still pulsating … It has never stopped, and now it needs to beat harder than ever, so we might start to rebuild our Country, although it will take a long time.” Speaking is Sister Iole from Syria, a Franciscan Missionary to Damascus. She is visiting Jerusalem for a few days before returning to her beloved Syria. We take this opportunity ask her what’s going on in that country that has started its seventh year of calvary since March.
“In Damascus the army has always resisted,” Sister Iole continues, “there have been no destructions, like in Aleppo or Homs … But the war has left its mark in Damascus too”. There are a lot of children and boys in the structures of the Franciscans who report serious traumas.
Children are the ones suffering the most. “This constant tension suffocates every kind of hope, families are destroyed … In short, children do not grow in serenity, they are scared, desperate.” She tells us the tragic story of a family of the community: “Because of the constant swinging of power a lady has been stormed. Her husband had been out of business for months and hence he did not work anymore … Missing his wife, with nothing to feed their three children, the poor man committed suicide … What hope remains for his children?” None, except the help of the Franciscans who have welcomed them. “Two days before I left,” the nun continues, one of the children of this family was found in the room trying to mount a loop … And he’s only eight! As soon as I was told about it, I ran to embrace him. Because the first thing is to make it clear that they are never left alone. In the end he was grateful and smiled. This is what hope means. “
“That’s why our help and presence in Damascus is now needed more than ever!” She exclaims, “Because there is still hope!”
In Syria, the Association pro Terra Sancta, alongside the Franciscans, has recently increased efforts to support schools and educational structures, so investing in the education, accompaniment and psychological support of young people who have been traumatized in this terrible war.
As Sister Iole tells us, however, there is still a lot of work to do.