Letter from Aleppo: ‘He was just 13 years-old’
By Archbishop Jean-Clément Jeanbart
He was just 13, our poor Fouad Banna, this child whom we just buried—leaders of the Christian community, his sister Rosy, his close family members and myself. His two parents, both also gravely wounded, were not present at his sorrowful funeral ceremony, for they themselves are caught between life and death in intensive care.
The three of them were in their apartment Feb. 14, in the evening, when the building collapsed after being struck by one of the many rockets fired from the rebel side into our Christian quarter in the city of Aleppo. Of his immediate family the only one present at his funeral was poor Rosy, his sister, a young student aged 17. When I asked her if there was anything I could do to help her, the only thing she said to me was, “Father, I beg you, ask the Lord to heal my two parents.”
Rosy has been left terribly alone. She is in mourning, together with many other Christians. They have been devastated following this fresh tragedy that has befallen our innocent families in this city, ravaged by the continuing and savage bombardments by the jihadists who, after having destroyed everything we have, are now daily terrorizing the population and doing everything they can to prevent our people, who are innocent and peaceful, from simply living in their own homes—even to the extent of trying to wipe them out if they stay on in the country.
There were five people in the Christian quarter who were slaughtered along with Fouad that day. How much suffering and unhappiness they have subjected us to, for more than four years now, these brutal and pitiless assailants! They want to rule the world and claim to be obeying God in their attempts to impose, by force and violence, their outdated way of life and their archaic laws on every human being in the world. “Are you still there?” My friends ask me: “What are you waiting for to leave?”
The reason we are holding out, we Christians, despite everything that happens to us, is deeply rooted in the history of our Church, which is that of the earliest Christians. We have been here in Syria ever since the return of our brethren from Jerusalem, right from the earliest days. They had been baptized by the apostles themselves, as we are told in the Acts of the Apostles. We owe our origins to those Jews of the Diaspora who regularly made their traditional pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost each year.
Paul was baptized, confirmed, ordained to the priesthood and sent out to preach the good news to the world by our forefathers in Damascus. The Christians who are suffering here today are the descendants of Christian believers who have remained faithful to Christ for 2000 years and who had the courage to pay with their lives for their unwavering fidelity to the Church of the Word Incarnate.
Archbishop Jeanbart is the Melkite Metropolitan of Aleppo, Syria. He sent this letter to Aid to the Church in Need.
The funeral of Fouad Banna; photo courtesy Melkite Archdiocese of Aleppo, Syria.
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