SYRIA: Youth in Syria helped by Salesian social development programs during 9 years of ongoing civil war
(MissionNewswire) After nine years of the ongoing civil war in Syria, more than 5.6 million Syrians are refugees and another 6.2 million people are displaced within the country, according to UNHCR, the UN refugee agency. Despite ongoing conflict and instability, Salesian missionaries continue their work with youth in Syria.
Since the outbreak of civil war began in March 2011, Salesian missionaries have operated three centers in Kafroun and in the particularly high conflict areas of Aleppo and Damascus. Each of the centers is staffed by three Salesian priests and a deacon.
Maher Al Saloom, now 24 years old and living in Damascus, is one young man who was impacted by the Salesians. He is the second of three brothers and was supposed to perform military service, but a heart problem exonerated him.
His life changed on April 17, 2013. Al Saloom said, “I was getting ready for the final high school exam, which was a few days away, and my father said I wouldn’t pass it. At seven in the morning, I was going over physics when the phone rang. They told me that my father had had an accident, but when I arrived at my uncles’ house, I knew the truth, that he was dead.”
That day Al Saloom did not have the strength to return home and instead went to the Salesian Youth Center. He recalled, “When I entered the church all the Salesians were there and, from that moment on, I found another father in them because they have always helped me to continue to study and overcome the difficulties that have arisen.”
After the burial of his father, Al Saloom continued to study as a gift to his father. Thinking about his past exams, Al Saloom noted, “I even obtained a good mark, even if the difficulties at home arrived all the same because we no longer had an income. It was then that the internal war began for me, which is stronger than the bombing. There was a fee to pay for the funeral and for the university. The Salesians helped us a lot as well as many other families. All that I am, I owe to them.”
The most difficult episode for Al Saloom was when he was handed the bullet that killed his father. Looking at it in his hand, he said, “This bullet costs 15 Lire. I’ll give you all the money you want if you give me back my father alive.” From that moment on, Al Saloom has never stopped studying.
Al Saloom added, “The Salesian Youth Center is my home. It gave me everything when I lost what I wanted most. It helped me overcome the difficulties.”
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
UNHCR – 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.