Letter From Aleppo: ‘He Was Just 13 Years Old’

…this child whom we buried this afternoon…

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Archbishop Jean-Clément Jeanbart, the Melkite Metropolitan of Aleppo, Syria, writes:
He was just 13, our poor Fouad Banna, this child whom we buried this afternoon – we, his sister Rosy, his close family members and myself. His two parents, both also gravely wounded, were not present at his sorrowful funeral ceremony, for they themselves are hanging between life and death, in intensive care. The three of them were in their apartment the day before yesterday, in the evening, when the building collapsed after being struck by one of the many rockets fired from the rebel side into our Christian quarter in the city of Aleppo. Of his immediate family the only one present at his funeral was poor Rosy, his sister, a young student aged 17. When I asked her if there was anything I could do to help her, the only thing she said to me was, “Father, I beg you, ask the Lord to heal my two parents.”
Rosy has been left terribly alone. She is in mourning, together with many other Christians, as I write these words. They have been devastated following this umpteenth tragedy that has befallen our innocent families in this city, ravaged by the continuing and savage bombardments by the jihadists who, after having destroyed everything we have, are now daily terrorizing the population and doing everything they can to prevent our people, who are innocent and peaceful, from simply living in their own homes – even to the extent of trying to wipe them out if they stay on in the country. There were five people in the Christian quarter who were slaughtered along with Fouad that day. How much suffering and unhappiness they have subjected us to, for more than four years now, these brutal and pitiless assailants! They want to rule the world and claim to be obeying God in their attempts to impose, by force and violence, their outdated way of life and their archaic laws on every human being in the world. Are you still there?, My friends ask me: What are you waiting for to leave?
The reason we are holding out, we Christians, despite everything that happens to us, is deeply rooted in the history of our Church, which is that of the earliest Christians. We have been here in Syria ever since the return of our brethren from Jerusalem, right from the earliest days. They had been baptized by the apostles themselves, as we are told in the Acts of the Apostles. We owe our origins to those Jews of the Diaspora who regularly made their traditional pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost each year. Paul was baptized, confirmed, ordained to the priesthood and sent out to preach the good news to the world by our forefathers in Damascus. The Christians who are suffering here today are the descendants of Christian believers who have remained faithful to Christ for 2,000 years and who had the courage to pay with their lives for their unwavering fidelity to the Church of the Word Incarnate, who has always been the Alpha and the Omega of their existence.
Our resistance also has to do with our belonging to this nation of Syria, the country we love and cherish for the fact that we have lived here for centuries, for everything it has given us in the past and for everything that it can still offer us in the future. We lived here before, for decades, respected, happy and at peace, and we hope, after this unjust and ignoble war that has been inflicted on us for I know not what reason, that we will be able to find here a new economic revival and a civil society still more open to individual liberty and the diversity of its various different social elements. Our resistance is part of our struggle for the sake of a better tomorrow, tomorrow where every man will be fully respected in his right to choose his own faith and to live it without hindrance, following the religion to which, in all conscience, he feels moved to adhere.
We, the Christians of Syria, have more need than ever today of our brothers in the West. We have need of their prayers and of their support. We need their constant and decisive advocacy with their political representatives and their governments. It is time for these gentlemen to consider our terrible sufferings and to change their attitude towards us. We hope that they will understand, once and for all, that we are determined to remain in our own country. This is a vital need for us and it represents an obvious and inalienable human right; it means as much to us as our life itself.
Archbishop Jeanbart is the Melkite Metropolitan of Aleppo, Syria. He sent this letter to Aid to the Church in Need.

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)

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Archbishop Jean-Clément Jeanbart

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