SYRIA: Syrian youth recall the affects of war on their lives and the support they received from Salesian programs
(MissionNewswire) Despite ongoing conflict and instability, Salesian missionaries continue their work with youth in Syria. Over the course of the last eight years since the outbreak of civil war began in March 2011, Salesian missionaries have operated three centers in Kafroun and the particularly high conflict areas of Aleppo and Damascus. Each of the centers is staffed by three Salesian priests and a deacon.
In operation since well before the start of the war, the centers have been providing educational classes, meeting space and social development and sporting activities for youth and their families. They also offer trauma counseling, emergency shelter, nutritious meals and medical referrals to those in need.
“At the beginning of the war they did not understand that we would remain,” recalls Father Alejandro León, Salesian provincial in the Middle East. “But the answer was always the same. ‘If the community to which God has sent me is my family, how can I abandon it when it needs me most?’”
Many people in Syria have lost what they had and most people have been forced to change residence or leave the country. Reaching Syria and navigating around the country is not easy. As in the case of most pandemics, many international organizations and non-government organizations left the country a long time ago. However, Salesian missionaries have remained and continue to stand alongside the population.
The war has ended in the big cities, but there are still small pockets of conflict. The countless military checkpoints on roads and highways and the roar of aircraft and distant explosions continue to coexist with the thousands of cartridges and war relics that populate the fields and buildings in ruins.
During these years of war, every young person can narrate dozens of anecdotes of situations of risk, tension and uncertainty. Biso Aghas, a young woman from Aleppo, says, “When we would say goodbye to our parents in the morning, they tried to memorize how we were dressed in case of recognition or they write their cell phone numbers on their children’s arms in case something happened and we had to warn them.”
Majdoleen Alzukimi is 23 years old and has been attending the Salesian Youth Center in Damascus since she was 7 years old. Her story is yet another example of those that contain the pain and trauma of war, but also the hope for peace in the future. Her father, like many others, was recruited for compulsory military service and sent to the war front. She says, “We saw him one day a week. In theory, he was in a safe and close area, but the fear and concern for him always accompanied us.”
Neither she nor her family can forget March 21, 2018 which was Mother’s Day in Syria. A bomb that fell on Damascus killed her father. Majdoleen says, “I wish the war in Damascus would never had ended because its end meant that my father is dead. If the war had continued, today my father would still be alive.”
Salesian centers in Syria continue to meet the needs of their communities through the distribution of food, economic aid and scholarships to help young people continue with their schooling.
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Salesian Missions – Syria
Any goods, services, or funds provided by Salesian Missions to programs located in this country were administered in compliance with applicable laws and regulations, including sanctions administered by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control.