This year, Christians in Aleppo will greet Easter with joy
By Eva-Maria Kolmann
IN RECENT years, Easter has been a sad occasion for Aleppo’s Christians; Good Friday was ever-present, and the light of the resurrection seemed far away. Only last year, Sister Annie Demerjian told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that “our children get coffins for Easter.” This year, she is able to sound a note of joy.
She told ACN: “Thankfully, we feel a lot safer. The bombing has ended. On this Easter feast I am so happy, just like all the other Christians who will be celebrating it in peace after so many years of war. Now we feel a lot safer as we go to church and come back from church. We thank God that the situation has improved. I wish that all the people who fled could return to their restored houses by Easter next year. I hope that peace and love will gain the upper hand in our country so that we can all be united once more.”
This is what two lay people in Aleppo had to say:
Lina Nalanand: “What we have been through is difficult and painful, but of course we cannot compare it with the suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ. The resurrection of Christ gives us hope, strength and the victory of life, which is why we always say, ‘If God is for us, then who can be against us?’”
Rana Idelbi, an elderly woman: “This is an incredible feeling for me. I know that I am getting old, but I am just as excited as the children on the feast days. It is true that we are tired and afraid and there have been many martyrs; we have cried and many of our brothers and relatives have left because of the war. But even under these circumstances, I knew that the Lord is always with us and my faith has grown. I pray with more humility than before and I know that the Lord is with me and with all of us.”
There are an estimated 40,000 Christians among the remaining inhabitants of Aleppo and surrounding areas. These are the ones who were not able to flee the city, either because they are too poor or because the relatives to whom they could have gone had already left the country.
For months, Aleppo was surrounded on all sides by the Syrian army, which, supported by the Russian air force, was fighting against the rebels for control of eastern Aleppo. Media reported on the bombardment of eastern Aleppo, but there was scant coverage of rebel attacks on western Aleppo. These were carried out with sophisticated weapons, reported Sister Demerjian, and caused many civilian casualties and widespread fear and terror.
The Christians in Aleppo still feel very isolated and the security situation remains tenuous, but the people are committed to stay because of their faith. Destitute, with scant supplies of food and basic commodities, shortages in medicine, electricity and water, they turn to their Churches for help—these are now working together well in distributing emergency aid.
ACN is cooperating closely with the local Churches and is supporting several projects in Aleppo. Since 2011, the organization has granted some $20M in emergency and pastoral aid to support Christians in Syria.