Syria: ‘please don’t forget us’

THE CORONAVIRUS is causing the West to forget the people of Syria who are still in desperate need of healing after almost a decade of conflict, according to a nun who has risked her life to provide urgent aid.

Sister Annie Demerjian told sAid to the Church in Need (ACN) that COVID-19 had brought the country’s recovery to a halt. She said: “Syria is like someone who has had a serious operation and he needs to heal, he needs to recover, and he suddenly doesn’t have time to recover. The world has begun to forget about Syria and that’s painful.”

Sister Annie, a leading project partner for ACN in Syria, explained that just as people were beginning to piece their lives back together, the pandemic came as a cruel blow.

She said: “Everybody knows we are coming out of a very difficult situation, the civil war. People start breathing, the remaining Christians are beginning to stand on their feet. Then the pandemic came and people collapsed. It’s a big burden—no work, no jobs.”

Sister Annie and some of her charges
Sister Annie and some of her charges

Sister Annie stressed that the combination of the civil war, the pandemic and fresh economic sanctions against the government of Syria have left many people in abject poverty. She said: “Life without electricity and gas is very hard and that’s because of the sanctions. Only every couple of hours we get one hour of electricity. That is not enough to heat a house. “There is not enough gas to cook food. Many times we receive calls, people are hungry, they have nothing to eat.”

ACN has helped Sister Annie provide winter coats for more than 26,000 children for the winter months where temperatures can dip below freezing.  She said: “A father cannot buy his child a coat because one coat is equal to his salary, or more. Our campaign was for families who find it impossible to help their children. It’s helped thousands of children. You cannot imagine the joy in the faces and eyes of the children when they were given the coats. ACN funded this.” Emphasizing that the coats campaign also provided jobs, Sister Annie added: “We are trying to help the economy; 40 shops and factories made the coats. We had two goals: creating jobs and distributing coat to our children in this harsh winter.”

Sister Annie finished by thanking ACN’s supporters. She said: “Even in this difficult time the donors of ACN didn’t stop supporting us. I will pray for the donors and the workers of CAN—you are doing amazing, amazing work. Through ACN, we are helping 270 old families with their daily cost of living. We are also supporting 84 families with their rent, between Aleppo and a little bit of Damascus.”

—Fionn Shiner