Aleppo was a city of over 2 million people – ten times the population of Aberdeen. It has been inhabited since 5,000BC, making it one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and a world heritage site.
Since the civil war came to Aleppo in 2012 life has changed. It is difficult to imagine what life is like for people who still live there. Imagine what it would be like if Aberdeen were being fought over by five militias. Imagine if there had been house to house fighting in the street where you live, car bombings at the supermarket where you shop, and if our church (if it were lucky enough to still be standing) were riddled with bullet holes, the windows blown in.
In Aleppo Christians are targeted by everyone. But not only Christians: medical staff are also targeted. There are only 35 doctors for the remaining 250,000 inhabitants: there should be about 500 doctors even in times of peace. Hospitals have been attacked and so have moved to the basements of buildings, usually with no more than 40 beds. Few people go to hospital, even if they are injured.
There are few shops left: people try to grow their own food, but starvation has driven people to eat the leaves off the trees. In July the water pumps were bombed, so now there is no piped water. The water that people drink is contaminated and people are falling ill.
People move from area to area, like nomads around the city trying to escape the fighting or find some somewhere to stay once their house or flat has been destroyed.
In amongst all this is Sr. Annie. Sr. Annie visits families assessing needs and distributing aid donated by Aid to the Church in Need. She provides food, clothes, shoes and fuel. Sr. Annie found one couple, both in the 70s, sleeping on the floor because they had sold their bed to buy winter fuel to keep warm. She got a bed for them and helped them with fuel.
Can you begin to imagine what it is like for our brothers and sisters in Aleppo?
A Prayer for peace in Syria (Aid to the Church in Need)
God of Compassion, hear the cries of the people of Syria.
Comfort those who suffer violence and console those who mourn the dead.
Give strength to Syria’s neighbouring countries to welcome the refugees.
Convert the hearts of those who have taken up arms, and protect all who are committed to peace.
God of hope, inflame the Universal Church with compassion for the people of Syria.
Inspire leaders to choose peace over violence and to seek reconciliation with their enemies, and give us hope for a future built on justice for all.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace and Light of the world. Amen