“Help us stay in Syria,” pleads Armenian-Catholic archbishop of Aleppo

Some parts of Syria slowly begin to rise from the ashes, as is the case of Aleppo. The war seems far from ending, though. Seven years of conflict has claimed the lives of half-a-million people, left three million wounded and produced six million refugees. And the disaster continues.

MSGR. BOUTROS MARAYATI
Armenian-Catholic Archbishop of Aleppo
“We’ve experienced some difficult times, but what we want to tell everyone today is, ‘Help us stay in Syria.’ We want to stay. Many people have left, half of our people have gone, but we’re there. Like the pope says, Christians must remain in the Middle East, and that’s why we’re staying. We can’t do it wihout material help and the prayers of others, though.”

Msgr. Boutros Marayati is the archbishop of Aleppo, a city that has been split in two for four years. The Armenian neighborhood was one of the first to be hit by bombs and mortars.

The cathedral was left in pieces, as well as the school. Msgr. Marayati proudly shows photos that document a return to normalcy. First, they rebuilt the school, where the children were able to see sunlight for the first time in five years, after studying in a basement to avoid the explosiones.

MSGR. BOUTROS MARAYATI
Armenian-Catholic Archbishop of Aleppo
“In the school we reopened, there are children who are six or seven years old and were born during the war. They have great psychological trauma. They don’t know what electricity, running water or having heat at school are. These children are traumatized. We help them overcome it with psychologists and nuns. We don’t only make them study. We also give them a religious and civic education because all they know is the war.”

The bombs also fell on this nursery patio. Luckily, no child was present that day. These are the photos before and after…
The city is slowly recovering, but is still in great need after years of combat. Of Syria’s 23 million inhabitants, 70 percent live below the poverty line. Among them are both Christians and Muslims.

MSGR. BOUTROS MARAYATI
Armenian-Catholic Archbishop of Aleppo
“There’s a beautiful coexistence in Aleppo, in our neighborhoods. First, Christian, Orthodox, Protestant and Catholic people work together on charitable projects. There’s also a wonderful cooperation and solidarity with Muslims, because we’re together, we live together, we go to school together, to the university, to the same hospitals. There are no differences between Christians and Muslims. If you’re in need, you’re my brother or sister.”

Msgr. Marayati defines Syrians as “living martyrs.” In Syria, all they want is peace that’s not a result of more bombs and that ends the war that has ravaged their country. Therefore, they’re asking for prayer, wisdom by governments and, above all, for the world to keep them in mind.