Aleppo man sits with his pipe amidst his destroyed home. Consolation in the new normal
Aleteia

Consolation in the new normal

Photo by Joseph Eid - AFP
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Photo of the Day: April 28, 2017

Life in war torn Aleppo

ALEPPO, Syria – 2017: Mohammed Mohiedin Anis, or Abu Omar, 70, smokes his pipe as he sits in his destroyed bedroom listening to music on his vinyl player (gramophone) in Aleppo’s formerly rebel-held al-Shaar neighborhood.

This image, titled Unchanged, is one of the most haunting to come out of the struggle in Aleppo, which has plagued the ancient city for more than 4 years.

Now, after the fighting has ended, the people of Aleppo have a new struggle, that of rebuilding their lives and finding a way to cope with the trauma.

Aleteia’s John Burger covered this process of societal reconstruction:

“The situation is chaotic but full of hope for the first time,” said Father Andrzej Halemba, head of the Middle East section for the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need. “You could sense a certain jubilation. Young people were playing football, thinking about an upcoming tournament. They were asking me if they can restore the basketball field.”

Father Halemba recently was in Aleppo, where the Syrian military, with assistance from Russian forces, had wrested control over the rebel-held eastern sector in late December.

The youth he met there were not the only sign of a renewed hope for a city that had become a living hell in the waning months of 2016. “We have more and more questions on how we can go back to Aleppo from Lebanon or other parts of the Middle East,” Father Halemba said.

Aid to the Church in Need is coordinating with other relief agencies to help rebuild the devastated city, providing funds to rebuild housing and feed the malnourished. The Vatican is trying to assist as well. Pope Francis sent Msgr. Giampietro Dal Toso, acting secretary of the Vatican’s new Congregation for Integral Human Development, to Aleppo January 18-23.

Cardinal Mario Zenari, papal nuncio to Damascus, is launching a project to rebuild Catholic hospitals in Aleppo. Like other hospitals, they are struggling mightily to treat the many wounded and traumatized.

“I’m waiting for His Eminence to meet with the Pope, and then we can see what we can do for these hospitals,” Father Halemba said.

Without denying the material hardships, though, simply the fact that the city is secure is a tremendous morale-booster. Alleppians “welcome peace and are so happy to not hear mortars and low-flying military jets and so on,” the Polish priest said.

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