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What’s left when everything crumbles

We’ve had a fraternity in Aleppo for many years. We had to be absent from there for the past few months, but as soon as it became possible after the earthquake, l.srs. Diana-Maria and Carol went to visit our friends and neighbors. This is what they shared with us when they came back to Lebanon:

“We’ve just returned from Aleppo.

The best expression that comes to us is silence. Silence—in the face of a wounded people, silence before a city overwhelmed, a people crushed, in turmoil, haunted by fear, a people who feel lost, abandoned, forgotten by God and by humanity. The earthquake came on top of years of war, economic sanctions, poverty and suffering. Houses are destroyed; others cracked, others wobbling, at risk of collapsing at any moment. Hearts too are destroyed and cracked, wobbling and at risk of collapsing at any moment. Many countries are collaborating in sending aid to restore houses and to build new ones; but how do you restore persons, rebuild their inner selves?

At the same time, we saw and experienced the people’s profound humanity, their mutual aid, their ecumenical spirit, everyone giving of themselves for the good of all. All the Churches (Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants), as well as all the mosques, opened the doors of their gathering spaces to people of every rite and confession, without distinction. They gave out mattresses, blankets, and food. A Catholic priest told us that the Orthodox Bishop had called him to say, “Yes, send me ten blankets; I have a troop of Scouts who cook every day, they will increase their amounts in order to send you some hot food, etc…” For me, the most important work of ecumenism is happening concretely right here on the ground today.

In his sermon another priest said, “I want to say to the Lord: war, poverty, suffering, victims, economic warfare, embargo, situations of extreme difficulty, challenges of every kind, earthquake…Enough Lord! Enough! And I hear the Lord answer me, “From Aleppo I will bring forth saints!’”

On February 20, after a full day of visits to a refugee center and to several of our neighbors, it was our turn to experience an earthquake, 6.3 on the scale. It was around 20 h (8 pm). We came down into the street, like everybody else.  The sight of all these people running, crying, shaking, cars and buses jam-packed, horns blaring…the stress and fear around us were contagious. You have to experience it yourself to appreciate what it feels like inside. We stayed in the street with all the people, from 20 to 23 h (8 pm to 11 pm), touched to see them encouraging and consoling one another. A Muslim woman came to comfort us by offering a biscuit. We went inside at midnight to sleep, saying as we traditionally do each night before we go to bed: “May you awaken safe and sound.” That night those familiar words acquired their full meaning.

And now the only thing we can do is entrust the city of Aleppo, Syria and Turkey to the Lord, that he may send his Spirit to restore the shaken hearts, soften hard hearts, enlighten the consciences of the powerful, and establish peace in our countries.

L.srs. Carol and Diana-Maria