SYRIA/ARGENTINA, via Aica.org •
The Argentinean priest Enrique González, a missionary in Aleppo for more than three years, spoke to AICA (and La Nación) about “the hardships and strengths” of the Syrian people hit by the fierce earthquake. —
“Trying to help, to alleviate the situation with the people around us, bringing water, food, coats, giving refuge and shelter to those who left their homes”, this is how Father Enrique González, from Mendoza, a missionary of the Incarnate Word Congregation (IVE) is living in Aleppo, one of the cities most affected by the earthquake that struck southern Turkey and northern Syria last Monday, February 6, causing the death of thousands of people and thousands more wounded.
Aleppo: battered by war and earthquake
A situation that Father González defines as “chaos”, added to the ills that the country has been dragging along since 2011, when a war began that divided the country and has still not been resolved, “plus the economic crisis, aggravated by the international economic blockade, then Covid, cholera and now the earthquake”, to which is added, at this time, a harsh winter. “Today, for example, the temperature was 5 degrees below zero”, Father Enrique told AICA in a telephone conversation.
Father Enrique González, 49 years old, from San Rafael, has been a missionary in Aleppo for three and a half years and has been in the Middle East since 2001, so he speaks perfect Arabic. He said that the Congregation of the Incarnate Word has two priests in Aleppo, one of whom is himself and the other who has recently travelled to Argentina to visit his elderly mother who was in poor health. In addition, there is a group of religious Servants of the Lord and of Our Lady of Matará, both congregations are part of the same Argentinian religious family.
“We are lending a hand,” continued the Argentinean priest in Aleppo, “in the two places where we work: one is a university residence, it is where we live, in the bishopric, which thanks to God did not suffer any damage and that gave us the possibility of receiving refugees from the earthquake”.
The other house they serve is in a very poor neighborhood in Aleppo, Midan. “There, explained Father González, most of the people had to leave their homes and many of them went to their villages in southern Syria, where there is no effect of the earthquake, and others were left on the streets, to whom we are trying to give shelter and help” and he explained that “Churches, mosques and open places” were made available to provide shelter.
Father Enrique told AICA that “we are still visiting people who were unable to leave their homes, especially the elderly, disabled and invalids, and we are bringing them water and the most necessary things. , bearing in mind that the water, electricity and gas supplies have also been cut off”.
In the midst of chaos, people give Thanks to God
The Argentinian missionary said that “the situation is very complicated, there is a lot of fear. There is a real sense of panic because with each repetition of the tremor, there is a building falling down, a building front falling apart, cracks in the floors, and the fear of what might happen”.
On the other hand, Father Enrique’s testimony was moving: “In the midst of this chaos”, he said that “what you see in the people is a lot of strength” and they give thanks to God in spite of everything: “God allowed us to survive this and also to overcome it”, this is how they live, the priest stressed: “They thank God for what they have, that they are alive, that their families are complete, that they are whole. They are also thankful that few of the immediate Christian community suffered physical harm”.
But certainly, all are united in sorrow for the thousands of dead in the country. “The numbers,” the priest acknowledged, “are not yet known exactly,” he concluded.
The death toll from Monday’s 7.8-magnitude quake in Turkey and Syria is over 20,000 people and the number of injured has risen to 60,000, according to a new toll released today, as rescue teams continued to search for survivors amid the cold and devastation.
In Turkey, where seven days of mourning and a three-month state of emergency were declared in the worst-hit provinces, the death toll reached 20,930 people, according to authorities.
In Syria, a country battered by more than a decade of civil war, the death toll has risen to more than 3,500, according to the Damascus government and civil protection teams in rebel areas.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said time is running out for the thousands wounded and missing in the rubble.
The Pilgrim Mother in Aleppo
Remember? On June 27, 2016, invited by the Mater Dei Hospital, Sister Guadalupe Rodrigo, a missionary of the Religious Family of the Incarnate Word, gave testimony of the persecuted Christians in the Middle East. On that occasion, she was given four images of the Schoenstatt Pilgrim Mother that would be destined for Syria and Iraq. One of the Pilgrim MTAs arrived in Aleppo. I don’t know where she is now, whether under rubble or in the hands of survivors. But we know she is there. Together with our prayers.
Original: Spanish 2023-02-11. Translated by: María Aragón, Monterrey, México