Help our “broken city” in Syria Aleppo-based nun makes plea to Parliament to help city “without light”

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By Murcadha O Flaherty
ALEPPO’S Sister Annie Demerjian described the “death, destruction and violence” engulfing the city at a Parliamentary meeting yesterday (Monday) organised to highlight the work of Christians ministering in places of suffering.
Giving first-hand witness at London’s Houses of Parliament organised by Aid to the Church in Need, Sister Annie described the day-to-day struggle for food, clean water, electricity and fuel in western Aleppo where she provides emergency help thanks to the international Catholic charity.
The meeting, chaired by human rights activist Lord Alton of Liverpool, also heard from Archbishop Shaw from Lahore, who highlighted the problem of constant discrimination and acts of persecution affecting Christians in Pakistan.
First to speak was Sister Annie, who said: “People in Aleppo are tired. [There is a] lack of basic essentials… water, medicine, food and fuel shortages.
“Aleppo is a broken city [with] death, destruction and violence”.
Describing the warring parties as “monsters… devouring one another”, Sister Annie went on to describe the pleas of thousands of Syrian children who have drawn pictures to express their desire for peace.
The Sister also highlighted the hardships suffered by civilians being “without basic resources”.
Describing the plight endured by “most families in Aleppo”, she praised ACN benefactors for working with her to provide “food, blankets, clothes, shoes and dignity” to thousands of children in Aleppo and Hassake, another city in northern Syria.
She described how “many people [were] without light”, as they could not afford electricity in Aleppo, because of the “exploitations by traders”.
Sister Annie said this shortage meant that “thousands of families are without fuel… facing [this] winter without heating”.
She stated how, on one of her visits to the most vulnerable in the city, she found an elderly couple in Aleppo sleeping on the floor.
It turned out that they had sold their bed for a few litres of oil to provide a few hours of heating.
Sister Annie stressed the “psychological damage… a pain greater than that of the physical pain”.
She described the need to “re-integrate back into society… a lost generation [of young people in Syria] where death is an everyday experience”.
Describing how, since the war began in March 2011, Christians in Aleppo have dwindled from more than 200,000 to less than 35,000 today, the Sister added that “everyone is afraid… we lost people we knew. The Church community has [now] become so small that we all know each other”.
She concluded: “Our world is a gift… we require a globalisation of solidarity… [not] indifference”.
Archbishop Shaw of Lahore, Pakistan thanked ACN for translating the Catechism of the Catholic Church into Urdu, enabling Catholics to learn more about their religion.
He described Catholics in Pakistan as: “vibrant, open and patriotic – [people] wanting a better society”.
The Archbishop outlined the prejudice against Christians and also other minority religions, whereby one Muslim is valued in status to that of two Christians.
The public school textbooks in the Pakistani public school curriculum reflect ‘hate’ material, he quoted one such example directly exposing this problem: “We are Muslim… others are infidels”.
He added that by Muslims and Christians “listening and respecting [each other]… all religions can work together for peace” and forward inter-faith and ecumenical dialogue in Pakistan.
Monday’s event came two days after Aid to the Church in Need’s annual event at Westminster Cathedral Hall in London.
At the meeting on Saturday (15th October) led by Aid to the Church in Need UK National Director Neville Kyrke-Smith, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, made opening remarks praising the “quality” of ACN’s work.
Guest speakers included both Sister Annie and Archbishop Shaw as well as Mr Kallassi from Lebanon, the General Manager of Tele Lumiere/Noursat, the only Christian Television Station in the Middle East, with 17 million viewers, including five million Muslims.

Editor’s Notes

Aid to the Church in Need is a Pontifical Foundation directly under the Holy See. As a Catholic charity, ACN supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in need through information, prayer, and action.

Founded in 1947 by Fr Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope St John Paul II named “An outstanding Apostle of Charity”, the organisation is now at work in 140 countries throughout the world.

Undertaking thousands of projects every year, the charity provides emergency support for people experiencing persecution, transport for clergy and lay Church workers, Child’s Bibles, media and evangelisation projects, churches, Mass stipends and other support for priests and nuns and training for seminarians.

Aid to the Church in Need UK is a registered charity in England and Wales (1097984) and Scotland (SC040748). ACN’s UK office is in Sutton, Surrey and there is a Scottish office in Motherwell, near Glasgow and another office based in Lancaster that covers the North-West.

Please always acknowledge Aid to the Church in Need as the source when using our material.

For more information, contact ACN Press Officer John Newton on 020 8661 5167.

Mr Murcadha O Flaherty
Press & Digital Media Officer

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