Syrian Christian kids enjoy festival atmosphere amid crisis

DAMASCUS, Dec. 28 (Xinhua) — The Rome Catholics Patriarchate held on Saturday a party for some 1,400 in the Syrian capital of Damascus as part of the Christmas celebrations amid the long- standing conflict in the country.

Located in the Christian-dominated district of Bab Touma in the old quarter of Damascus, the patriarchate was jam-packed with kids who have suffered from either displacement or poverty during the crisis.

Syrian Christians announced earlier to cancel all Christmas celebrations and would only pray for peace in Syria that has been embroiled in nearly three years of conflict, but the church party has come essentially to give kids a chance to live in a festive mode, even if it’s temporary.

“Today we are working on a party for the displaced and poor kids. We have tried to reach out to as many kids as we could in Damascus and thankfully we have 1400 children enjoying party with us,” Ghassan Talab, the organizer of a party, told Xinhua.

“We are hoping for a better tomorrow where hope and peace could return to Syria and its children to live as we used to live before the crisis,” he said.

Wearing Santa Claus costume, Aboud Saadeh, a volunteer, said the main goal of this party is to bring the kids happiness and take their minds away from the woes of the Syrian conflict.

“The event comes at a time when the situation is gloomy in the country. We wanted to make a special event for the children to have some joy through this small party and small gifts so that they could forget about the situation around them,” said Santa.

On the beats of joyful Christmas carols, the kids received their gifts. The boys received clocks while the girls received Barbie dolls.

Naya, a 7-year-old girl, wished the crisis in her country would be over by next year. Asked to express a more personal wish, she insisted: “I wish the crisis would be over in order for us to restore our joy.”

Syria’s Christians, accounting for 10 percent of the country’s Sunni-dominated population, show unwavering support to the embattled President Bashar al-Assad due to fears that a regime change could deprive them of protection Assad has long ensured for them.

Ahead of the outbreak of the Syrian crisis, streets of the Christian-dominated districts of Damascus used to be decorated with eye-catching, glowing decorations that attract most of the Damascus citizens to enjoy the view in the districts of Bab Touma, Qassa and Bab Sharqi.

But the streets now look cold and cheerless at a time when the glittering accessories should be decorated everywhere.

Gregory III Laham, Patriarch of the Church of Antioch and all East, told Xinhua in a recent interview that the long-term crisis has displaced more than 450,000 Syrian Christians, killed more than 1,000 of them, and destroyed more than 85 churches.