Monsignor Mounir Saccal, National Director of Missio (the Pontifical Mission Societies) in Syria was recently in touch. He shared about the dreadful aftermath of the earthquake which hit Turkey and Syria on 6 February, and which has so far claimed at least 56,000 lives. This is what he had to say:

We are living through a nightmare. Last time we suffered an earthquake that strong in that region (north of Syria and south of Turkey) was in 1822.The earthquake on 6 February has caused so much devastation and we are experiencing between 5 and 20 aftershocks each day.

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After the quake

As they arrived back to their homes, victims began to evaluate the damages caused by the earthquake.

Half a million people have been made homeless. There are over 4,000 homes that people cannot go back to, and 30,000 homes which need repair.

Life has become very expensive, and rent has tripled in price as they can’t reconstruct or repair any homes for another two months in case there’s another earthquake.

Children are traumatised. As well as immediate help through shelter and food, the Church is trying to provide moral support for the families and survivors.

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How do people keep hope?

Syrians who had suffered the war for a long time are now faced with a new form of danger, an even more striking one. And this, in a way, was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Unfortunately, all I can tell you is that the people are tired and desperate.

Two million people have been affected and it has taken three weeks to find shelter for everyone in Churches, Mosques, sports halls, and tents.

How do we keep up hope after 12 years of war, and sanctions, and embargoes? The thought of having to rebuild everything is like a nightmare. They have lost everything so everyone will want to leave because reconstruction takes so long.

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Concrete help from the Church

During the first weeks, we opened our homes to welcome anyone feeling afraid and insecure in their own homes. We gave them shelter and food for more than three weeks as the earth shook once again on 20 February.

The Church in Aleppo has created a committee of the different Christian churches and we meet twice a week to coordinate our response.

The Commission is concerned with all the Christian population in Aleppo, and is composed of engineers, Priests and parishioners, and we have evaluated all the damage case-by-case. This procedure is ongoing as it demands a great deal of work.

All the homes affected by the earthquake are being repaired at the Commission’s cost. Every parish is taking care of their own victims. Meanwhile, we’re renting apartments for those whose homes have been the most damaged.

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Please help our sisters and brothers in need

The Catholic Church in Aleppo has received 4,000 requests for help and so far, they have only been able to visit 230 families. Each parish is trying to respond in the best way: our mission is to help families who have lost everything to find calmness again.

We are responding to current needs on three levels: psychological, economic and medical. Families are basically living in fear and the children specially have been the most affected – they’re not sleeping at night because they fear another earthquake. Everyone is listening out for the alarms on earthquake alert apps.

Help us to stay

Syrians have suffered all types of hardship for more than a decade.

War has taken away from us a good number of parishioners. Today, they’re all scattered all over the world. Unfortunately, the war has lasted for a long time and they have gone on to make their lives abroad and will never come back. We fully understand them. They were in search of security, particularly for the wellbeing of their children.

Before 2011, Christians in Syria made up 12% of the population. Today, we are less than 7%. That means that our number has gone down by almost half.

The economic situation, the Cesar Act, the embargos have all exhausted Syrians, and now with the earthquake everyone wants to leave.

We are trying to do our best to reassure them, to give them hope in faith and in prayer so that we can dream of a better future.

Help us to stay here, in this our home and cradle of Christianity and our faith. Help us stay here; our people are tired and feel hopeless. Please help us to get our confidence back, to regain our faith and hope for better days.

Please pray for us.

How you can help

We are channelling funds from England and Wales to our sister organisations in Turkey and Syria. You can help them meet the massive costs they currently face, in rebuilding and re-homing those who have lost everything, with a donation to our Mission Emergency Fund. Please donate here>>

Your prayers are vital at this time. Please join us in praying for the people of Syria and Turkey, already exhausted and hopeless after so many years of struggle. Help us to show them that they are not forgotten, and that they are loved, by God and by us. Thank you.

Image: Salem Mohammadi / Wikimedia Commons