Currents News Staff
It’s been seven years and eight months since the war in Syria began. As of 2011, the country has been bleeding to death as a result of a conflict revealed as a kind of world war on Syrian territory. Beyond geo-strategy or politics, the real protagonists and victims have been the Syrians. Suffering and living side-by-side with this martyred population, the Salesians of Don Bosco have persisted.
“It is the attitude that I am noticing in my Salesian brothers that really touches my heart. The same thing happened to me in Sierra Leone, and in Liberia. That is to say, when there are great conflicts, they love those affected people so much that they are not able to leave them in moments of suffering,” said Father Angel Fernandez Artime, Rector Major of the Salesians.
For the Rector Major of the Salesians, it is a source of pride that the Congregation has kept its houses in Aleppo and Damascus open, although they are still surrounded by destruction and death.
“Our Salesian house is in a less-battered area since it is very large. I am happy because it has been a place where hundreds and hundreds of families have been able to take refuge, sleeping on the floor. It has really been, as Pope Francis says, a field hospital. I would say to all those who are listening, that our presence as a Church, that our presence as a congregation, has nothing to do with the geopolitical interests of others,” said Artime.
This presence is made concrete in his work, especially with the younger ones. During a recent trip, the Superior of the Salesians was able to confirm that the young people have enough strength to push on.
“In fact, I was told at various times, ‘We tell you, Fr. Angel, that those who will have the last word will not be the warlords, whoever they are. We have a great strength that is personal, internal, and that comes from our faith. We will rebuild our city, we will rebuild our beautiful country, it is not going to end, we still have the will to live and a lot of strength,’” said Artime.
The Salesians have maintained, and continue to maintain, several initiatives in the midst of the rubble, for Christians and Non-Christians alike. Initiatives like the chapel, the youth center, and support for university students. All of this is so that the life of the youngest in Syria may be as normal as possible, in spite of the bombs of this almost forgotten war.