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By Bishop Antoine Audo, S.J., President of Caritas Syria
One evening while the electricity was down, I took a walk in the popular area of Tabbalé in Damascus. In the small dark streets, people passed each other by, their flashlights in hand. It’s a popular area, where Christians, the poor from every region and people from rural areas mix.
I said to myself: here is la Syrie profonde, the essence of the country, here is our civilized Syria, our beloved Syria in the words of Pope Francis. What is left of that Syria? Who will save it from violence, poverty and crisis? Who will help us regain our dignity? It’s this dignity, this determination, this sense of citizenship that leads us to respect for the other and advances the cause of peace and reconciliation.
The economic crisis has affected all of society. The rich have become middle class, the middle class are poor, and the poor are destitute, many reduced to crime for survival.
Inflation harms all of us, even here at Caritas. In the early days of the crisis two and a half years ago, US $1 was equivalent to 50 Syrian pounds. Now an average monthly salary in Syrian pounds equivalent to US $400 is in effect worth US $100.
Everyone worries about the rise in the cost of living, starting with food, then transport and medicine. Everyone is exhausted by this increase in living expenses and by the general insecurity.
The health of the people is getting worse as they’re starting to feel more vulnerable, both physically and mentally.
Caritas Syria continues its activities across Syria, in Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, Hassaké, Horan and Littoral. Our centres and teams grow and change to meet the needs of the families affected by the war. Caritas Syria has five priority areas of food, medicine, housing assistance, education and support for the elderly.
We focus on the training of staff and volunteers to ensure our work is effective and strategic.
During my own pastoral visits, I noticed that some of the people who had before tried to live good lives, who had given to the poor , are now poor and depressed. They are in a state of shock and don’t know what to do. Caritas staff members face people like this every day.
Against this dark tableau, civil society is leading a secret resistance. We are fighting against the hardships and violence in silence and with dignity.
We thank all our partners Caritas and all their supporters, and we pray that they build with us peace in Syria and the Middle East.
Caritas Syria is currently implementing one national programme and eight regional programmes, supporting 40,000 people with food, medicine, housing assistance, education and support for the elderly.