This report is contributed by Eliane També of Aid to the Church in Need.
War rages on in Syria. Aleppo, the country’s major business center—what’s left of it—is a city at war, subject to regular bombardments by various factions fighting for dominance. Last year, a mother of two sons, 48-year-old Joumana Jarjour, a Melkite Catholic, was gravely wounded by shrapnel from a rocket that landed and exploded right in front of the family home.
She and her husband Alexan Saba, an out-of-work auto mechanic, were standing on their balcony, waiting for their boys—teenagers 14 and 15 years old—to get home from school. Joumana almost did not make it.
She was given a couple of days to live, after doctors discovered a large piece of shrapnel inside her body, close to her heart and neck, areas of the body too delicate to perform surgery on. Then it happened. Joumana remembers “fervently praying.” “I loved life and wanted to have a chance to go back to work to help my husband who lost his job,” she said recently, “and I was not ready to let go of my two sons.”
She says she saw “Jesus Christ smile” from a picture hanging before her on the wall, and right then she knew that “He responded to my request and that I would live.” Many surgeries later, Joumana is back on her feet.
What’s more, this brave mother just enrolled in a training program sponsored by the Melkite Archdiocese of Aleppo; she has enrolled in a course for beauticians offered by the Church’s “Build to Stay Program.”
The brainchild of Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart, the initiative offers local Christians who’ve lost their jobs during the civil war a chance to pick up the pieces—to update their skills, learn a new trade, or get a modest subsidy to relaunch their small business.
“Build to Stay,” which the archbishop describes as part of social movement rallying local Christians to a fresh commitment to stay put and rebuild their city and country—is designed to lay the concrete foundation for a future for the local Christians. Its programs are harbingers of a future of self-sufficiency and promise for a better life once, God-willing, the fighting will have come to an end.
For Joumana, the prospect of a professional career is “part of the promise of the Lord,” made that one dark night, when she saw that “beautiful and charming smile.”
Aid to the Church in Need is an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries. www.churchinneed.org (USA); www.acnuk.org (UK); www.aidtochurch.org (AUS); www.acnireland.org (IRL); www.acn-aed-ca.org (CAN) www.acnmalta.org (Malta)