Syria is commerating the 12th anniversary of the outbreak of war amid a critical humanitarian situation, aggravated by the aftermath of last month's earthquakes in the north of the country.
An entire generation of young people know no other situation than living amid bombs, poverty, insecurity, and uncertainty. The Salesians, for their part, continue to stand by the people, helping, caring, and opening their doors to their neighbors, to instill hope and continue to be an oasis of peace and a home of hope in the midst of suffering.
The war in Syria turns 12 years old today, March 15, 2023. There are no more bombs, except in a rebel-controlled area in the north of the country, but the situation of the population is dire. The conflict has left more than half a million dead, more than 2.1 million wounded, and more than 13 million displaced - with at least 6.6 million refugees in other countries. Over 11 of the 17 million people in the country today urgently need humanitarian assistance to survive, and among them are 6.5 million minors.
"There is no work, there is no electricity, fuel is very expensive and money is worthless... The population is discouraged," report the Salesians present in Syria. "There is a generation of minors who know only war, and many young people who have lived most of their lives amid violence are thinking of leaving the country," says Fr. Alejandro León, the Provincial Superior of the Salesians of the Middle East (MOR).
"Adolescents in our Salesian works have been educated in the culture of peace and hope, to always see the glass half full. However, many of them openly say that the problem now is that the glass is broken and they do not see a future for themselves and their families," the Salesian continues.
In Syria today, every family has a loved one to mourn because of the war. "Even in our oratories and youth centers we have suffered from the deaths of minors, youth leaders, and their families due to the bombs on Damascus and Aleppo," continues the Salesian Provincial of MOR. However, the youths' doubts are now centered on the crossroads placed before them, "To leave the country in search of a future away from Syria or to stay with their parents and wait for peace to contribute to reconstruction."
Moreover, the Feb. 6 earthquake and more than 11,000 aftershocks have further complicated the situation. In the massive carnage that has occurred, with 54,500 deaths recorded so far, there have been nearly 6,000 Syrian casualties; and in the northwest of the country, where more than 100,000 buildings have collapsed, there are 1.5 million people homeless and 5.4 million individuals dependent on emergency aid.
Over the past 12 years, Salesian works have always kept their doors open to meet the needs of the youngest in the community. From 2012 to 2018, 250 families in Aleppo, 120 in Damascus, and 30 in Kafroun, received monthly financial assistance. And from 2012 to 2014, the Kafroun house housed 70 people from Aleppo displaced by the war.
In addition, from 2019 to 2022, about 200 young people received business promotion courses and some of them were helped with the initial investment of their businesses. In addition, to support minors in their studies (70 in Aleppo and 100 in Damascus) and university youth in their economic needs, the latter have been engaged in a course of refresher and remedial classes for minors.
In total, Kafroun's work took in more than 370 people during the worst years of the war and is now also welcoming those displaced by the earthquake. In Aleppo, the city hardest hit by the war and now the earthquake, Salesians are running an educational project that has helped an average of 800 minors and adolescents in recent years of conflict. Similarly, in recent weeks, nearly 800 people who became needy because of the earthquake have been housed at the city's "Don Bosco House."
In Damascus, about 1,200 minors are benefiting from the Salesian work, and 280 young Don Bosco University volunteers. Finally, in the Jaramana neighborhood, 8 kilometers from the Salesian house, apartments have been rented to give lessons to children so that they do not have to move too far to pursue their studies. And a large youth center is also planned to be built in the same area.
Salesian Missions has announced an emergency appeal to provide aid for where it is needed most in Syria.
With thanks to ANS for this story