To be a Daughter of Charity in Syria in a time of war…

[Province of the Near East] Interview with a Daughter of Charity returning from Syria:

Would you please introduce yourself?

I am Lebanese from the suburbs of Beruit (Mreije’). I entered the Daughters of Charity in 1969. 

Could you tell us how you came to your vocation in the Vincentian family? You have chosen to be a Daughter of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul.  Why? 

Because I was one of their students and it was due to the example of the Sisters devoted to the service of those who are poor.  That attracted me to them.  I felt like I had to be with them; in short, I felt the call of God to join them…

Could you briefly tell us of your time in the Company of the Daughters of Charity? What have you done?  What have been your major placements over the years ? 

My first placement was to the convent of Broumana.  I worked in the free school, then I was placed in Damascus at a school.  From there I went to Zouk Mikael, then Zghorta; and again to Damascas.  Finally, I was placed in Hassaké (Northern Syria).  I stayed there a year.  It was a mission to the Chaldean and Assyrian people. 

Today, you are in the Community of Ajaltoun (Lebanon).  You were previously in Northern Syria, and you left there … What was your work there with your sisters? Can you briefly tell us the reasons for your departure?

I will give you some history in order to situate you a little: 

Tell Arbouche in the Khabur region is situated in the north of Syria at the Turkish-Iraqi border.  There are about 30 Assyrian villages.  Only Tell Arbouche is the Chadean Rite.  There are only about twenty families in Tell Sakra and Tell Chami, so three villages

It is an agricultural area that grows wheat and cotton and the cotton is bought and sold to the State for a very small percentage.  The Khabur, the river that waters this region, is almost always dry. They cannot water their plantations for lack of water.  Fuel oil is also sparse.  This region is threatened by emigration for economic, climate and religious reasons.  We have not had rain in many years.  These Assyrian villages have been neglected. The presence of priests and religious is diminishing.   Our role as Daughters of Charity in the region is to support the minority Christians, especially at the level of faith by catechetics and preparation of children for first Communion

The works: We have a nursery school with 60 – 75 children between the ages of 3 and 5 years old. 

  • We have a catechetical center for 100 children.
  • We give French lessons especially to the students who are taking their official exams.
  • We work in the promotion of women.
  • We participate in culinary arts for women.

But with the war, the village is empty and the work is very tense.  One cannot go from one village to the other because it isn’t safe.  Presently, two Daughters of Charity remain to be present in the village of Tell Ar.  This is also a support to the people who remain. 

How do you see the situation in Syria today? What were your impressions? How do the Christians in the region where you were live this situation of a war that never ends? What kind of future do you think the Christians will have in Syria at the end of the war?

I don’t know; it’s in God’s hands.  

Could you tell us what you do now in Ajaltoun? What are the activities of the house? 

I take care of the nursery and in the afternoon I oversee the study time at the boarding school.

Our activities: Free Primary School, Orphanage, and hospitality for groups. One of our sisters visits prisoners.  (http://www.chretiensdorient.com)

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