Syrian priest narrates ordeal in war-torn Aleppo

A priest in Aleppo has told of how he has chosen to stay in the Syria city that suffered massive destruction in the country’s civil war in order to minister to the people there.
Greek Orthodox priest Ghassan Ward is supported by the charity Open Doors, which supports persecuted Christians. He has lost friends and family in the war but believes he is called to stay.
He told Open Doors: ‘My bishop was kidnapped in April 2013, my church was destroyed and my house was bombed. My two sons left the country, my wife died of cancer and I lost two of my close family members because of the bombings.’
His church is serving 1,700 families, providing food supplies, fuel, clothes and school supplies.
He said: ‘Many of my parish were rich before, now they are poor. They have no work, no income and all the savings are spent during the years of war. The role of the church is not only having the services – we welcome the people and we try to help solve their problems. God gave us the love.
‘It’s not easy to do this, many of our young generation are out of Syria or are in the army. The needs of the people are very big; we’re trying to meet their needs. It’s God mercy that I stayed, that we stayed.’
The churches in Aleppo are working together to support displaced families who have been left with nothing. There is a team of around 60 volunteers and 12 employees who keep track of who receives help and help with distribution, with more drafted in when they are needed.
Among those receiving help is Rezk (70) who was displaced from his village in the Latakia area in 2012 because of heavy fighting. He and his wife fled to Aleppo, and are also supported by Ghassan’s church.
He said: ‘Thanks to God, my wife and I survived. We live from my retirement salary of about 60 dollars, plus the help we get [from the church]. We went through very hard times here in Aleppo, especially when the city was besieged. At that time we only had one meal a day, one day rice, the other spaghetti.’
Ghassan said: ‘We help also non-Christians. They are our neighbours, we live with them, and we cannot neglect a person who is hungry. When we give them a loaf of bread, the love of Christ is written on it.’
Open Doors has launched a crisis appeal as the crisis in Syria escalates, providing food aid for thousands of families in Syria every month alongside long-term project including rebuilding homes, creating jobs and providing trauma care. Syria is number 15 on the Open Doors 2018 World Watch List.

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