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A spiritual message of hope

Carmelite sisters living heroically in war-torn Syria to help families in need

On July 5, Fr Raymond Abdo, the Provincial of the Discalced Carmelite Fathers in Lebanon and counsellor of the Carmelite Sisters in the Holy Land, visited the convent of the Carmelite sisters in Aleppo, Syria. He had this to say about them: “They are a message of peace and a spiritual message of hope.”

In a country devastated by war, this community of Carmelite sisters, four of whom are Syrian and two French, persevere in their mission of continuous prayer and help to families in need amid the destruction around them.

The sisters’ convent is situated on the outskirts of Aleppo, north of Syria, an area under constant siege. Throughout the civil war that has gone on for the past seven years, the convent has suffered water, food and electricity shortages. The convent has also sustained a lot of damage; once a missile even landed in its yard but, thankfully, did not explode.

According to Fr Raymond, the sisters are living in very heroic conditions, despite the difficulties they face. They have managed to host four Muslim families, who lived in a building adjacent to the convent and shared their food and the vegetables from their gardens. Three of the hosted families have moved on and managed to resettle elsewhere, while a family with 10 children are still being supported.

They don’t distinguish between Muslims and Christians

In spite of this, the sisters have not lost their way of contemplative life. They retain their systematic routine that starts with silent prayer and Mass, and then working together in silence with more periods of prayer throughout the day.

These Carmelites are an exceptional example of what it is to be a true Christian, as they don’t distinguish between Muslims and Christians. The sisters believe that their charity gives the possibility to Muslims and other people to get to know the heart of Christianity which offers them real hope.

War in Aleppo has destroyed homes, families, relationships and the economy in general. Some reconstruction of the city has begun, but till today while walking outside the convent, missiles can still be heard, heading in the direction of the Turkish area north of Aleppo.

Displaced children in AleppoDisplaced children in Aleppo

The sisters and the locals are now used to living in these conditions. The people have suffered a lot but still have the courage to go on.

The Carmelite sisters have chosen to remain in their convent as they refuse to leave the people in their suffering in spite of continuous airstrikes from both Syrian and Russian forces.

Sadly, the sisters retort that the Middle East, the land of Christ, is slowly running the risk of becoming void of Christians. They claim that many of the city’s citizens, Christians included, have left the city since the war began and only the poorest have remained. 

Only 40,000 Christians are thought to have remained in Aleppo, a quarter of what there once was.

A damaged area in Aleppo. Photo: RuetersA damaged area in Aleppo. Photo: Rueters

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