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Sisters of St. Dorothy in the hell of Aleppo: “Out in the streets to give consolation”

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“It was raining. It was cold. They all rushed outside: old people, children, young people. We stood there four hours. It was horrible, distressing.” Sister Seba Al Khouri, a 52-year-old Jordanian nun, Mother Superior of the Community of the Teaching Sisters of St Dorothy Daughters of the Sacred Hearts in Aleppo, recalls the terrible moments of last February 6, when the earth shook at approximately 4 am local time. Very violently. Its epicentre in Turkey was a thousand times stronger than the earthquake in Amatrice, Italy (according to seismologist Alessandro Amato from the Italian National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology), causing death and devastation.

Not without difficulties SIR managed to contact the nun by phone. There is only one hour of electricity in the morning. They are without water or natural gas. ” Fortunately we can count on a generator purchased a few years ago thanks to some donations from Italy,” the nun explained.

In addition to Sr. Seba, the community of the Sisters of St. Dorothy in Aleppo, north-west Syria, includes Sr. Lina Sanosian, herself from Jordan, and Sr. Sini Mathew Annamma from India.

“When the earth trembled, we were sleeping in our apartment,” said Sister Seba. “We hastily turned off the electricity and gas, took our passports and ran outside into the street. In the meantime, someone from our apartment block had knocked on our door to warn us. The first tremor lasted forever. After four hours in the cold we were told we could return to our homes, but ten minutes later the earth shook again. We ran outside again and waited another four hours. It was freezing. It was horrible, especially for the children and the old people. We tried to comfort each other, bringing relief to the desperate people by praying the holy rosary.”

The three nuns live in an apartment building together with 12 families in the Midan neighbourhood, one of the poorest and most war-torn areas of the country, a result of the war between jihadist rebels and President Bashar al-Assad’s army. The area is home to many Armenian Christians, as well as Muslims. “Fortunately we are fine, but I can see the fear in people’s eyes,” continues the nun. “We were lucky, our apartment building is still standing. It was renovated recently by the Apostolic Vicar of Aleppo, Msgr. George Abou-Khazen OFM, with the aim of encouraging the Christians who had fled to return. It was in ruins before 2019, as were all the surrounding buildings. We hear stories of collapsed buildings every day. Residents must take what they can. Government officials are visiting every house to figure out who can stay, and who must leave.” “Too many people have died. We attended several funerals,” adds the Mother Superior. “Countless houses collapsed: there is rubble everywhere. Some areas are very dangerous”.

The ground floor of the nuns’ apartment building is a community centre owned by the Vicariate and run by the Fathers of the Incarnate Word in conjunction with the Sisters of Saint Dorothy. On weekdays it welcomes numerous children for after-school activities, while on Sundays children and young people attend catechesis. There are also several classrooms available for courses in English, computers, arts, gymnastics. There’s a chapel where Holy Mass is celebrated for  local Christians. “There are some dangerous cracks in the walls, we had to interrupt our activities,” said Sister Seba, who runs a soup kitchen with Sister Lina and Sister Sini. Before the quake they distributed warm meals to over 200 families every day. They continue today. As best they can. “We are housed in the Vicariate, the seat of the Apostolic Vicar, where we are caring for some 30 displaced families. Many people are coming to our premises to eat, or we go out to bring them food. Humanitarian aid has started to arrive. We are trying to organise the distribution of aids with the support of a group of young volunteers.”

The mission of the Sisters of St. Dorothy in Aleppo first opened in September 1997, but it was interrupted in 2013, after Sr. Reema Nasri was killed by the bombs. She was a Syrian nun who was deeply loved by all for her great commitment and love for her country and for her concern for the most needy. She left the house on the morning of January 15, 2013 and never returned. No trace of her body was found.

Sister Seba returned to the war-torn country in 2019, to the same apartment, to give human and spiritual support to the population.

She has no desire to return to Italy. “I am not even thinking about it,” she concludes. ” People here need us, they need our presence.”

(Fonte: AgenSIR – News archiviata in #TeleradioNews ♥ il tuo sito web © Diritti riservati all’autore)

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