ACN News, Wednesday, 26th July 2017: SYRIA
In Aleppo, not even the dead can rest in peace
• Aid to the Church in Need has agreed to support the rebuilding of the Greek Orthodox cemetery and the transfer of the remains of Orthodox and Catholic Christians of various rites who died in Aleppo between April 2013 and December 2016 to the Christian cemetery of Jabal Al-Saydé.
By Josue Villalón
Life continues to be difficult in Aleppo. Although bombs are no longer being dropped on the city, the price of food is sky high, the currency has been depreciated, and 80% of its residents still live outside of their homes. Those effected were either displaced by the war, or their flats still need to be rebuilt after being destroyed by bombs. There are also many dead still awaiting their proper burial and the problem of providing eternal rest for the dead is not an easy one to solve.
The neighbourhood of Sheikh Maqsood is located on a hill on the north western border of Aleppo. This area set the stage for the fierce battles that raged between Kurdish troops and various Islamic groups for control over the city. The Kurds, who ultimately conquered the area, still block civilians and even Syrian security forces from entering the zone. The Christian cemeteries are located on the western border at the foot of Jabal Al-Saydé (Mountain of St. Mary). Due to the ongoing fighting during the war, the cemeteries were closed. During this time some of the cemeteries were damaged by bombs as well as being looted.
“We would like to give our dear departed a dignified and sacred burial,” said Moses Alkhassi, Vicar General of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Aleppo and Alexandretta, which extends across Syria and Turkey. He continued: “We need help so that we can rebuild our cemetery. Several bombs were dropped on the cemetery, which destroyed large parts of it. Doors and gravestones were also pillaged and several graves were opened.” The part of Jabal Al-Saydé where the Greek Orthodox cemetery of Aleppo is located sustained the most damages. The Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has approved $19,000 for the clearing and rebuilding work. “Our believers can’t even scrape together all of their living expenses – food and medicine, shelter – much less funeral and cemetery expenses. This is why we greatly appreciate the help Aid to the Church in Need is offering us.”
“Our archdiocese has suffered greatly: we have lost several churches. Furthermore, at the very beginning of the war, our Metropolitan Boutros Yazigi was kidnapped together with the Syriac Orthodox archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim. We still don’t know where the two of them are,” the priest said despondently.
The number of Christians from all denominations that are still awaiting a dignified burial in the various cemeteries totals 2,461. Up until now, their mortal remains have been interred on a piece of property that was provided by the Syrian government. It costs about $58 to exhume and re-bury the remains of one person.
ACN has agreed to provide close to $66,000 to repair cemeteries, in particular the Greek Orthodox cemetery—which sustained the most damage—and to arrange for the transfer to Jabal Al-Saydé of the remains of all Orthodox and Catholic Christians of various rites who died in Aleppo between April 2013 and December 2016.
Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity – helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, Aid to the Church in Need’s Child’s Bible – God Speaks to his Children has been translated into 172 languages and 50 million copies have been distributed all over the world.
For more information or to make a donation to help the work of Aid to the Church in Need, please contact the Australian office of ACN on (02) 9679-1929. e-mail: email@example.com or write to Aid to the Church in Need PO Box 7246 Baulkham Hills NSW 2153.
On Line donations can be made at www.aidtochurch.org