Posted in focus on faith

The Nightmare of Aleppo: an eyewitness account

A Free Syrian Army fighter in AleppoThe account below, translated from Arabic, is from a Christian pastor who stayed to help his community in Aleppo. It is written from Beirut, where he has now fled.

Even though he has found refuge from the war he cannot find relief from the “nightmare” he experienced in his homeland.

He wrote: 2-Sept-13 ~ Beirut
Today I concluded my 3rd week outside of Aleppo…
And the nightmare of Aleppo — the stones, the friends, the relatives, the church, chase me in my travelling, in my sitting, in my dinner & my lunch… sometimes I feel my soul collapsing on me… in my waking, my alertness, my activity, in every meal it is close to me. It robs the energy of my mind, as I survey the variety of food in front of me– the variety that’s been missing from Aleppo!  And if this nightmare leaves me for a few minutes of quietness, i drown in the calculation of how many weeks, possibly months, have passed since the yogurt (or the chicken) has been extinct from the city, or how long has passed since we’ve seen this kind of food.
 
One day a friend invited me to eat a meal with him in a restaurant. i was perplexed– confusion & extreme unrest– to the strangeness of the place, to the variety of food, to the abundance of meat… and the feeling of dryness came over me, great dryness– I tried to bring these two together, but there is a gap between me & those I left in Aleppo.
 
As to the affect of sounds (real sounds) of battles, of artillery, of missiles, it appears as if that’s been carved inside me in such a way that will never be erased. So in Beirut, how strange it is, how often they play with fireworks– possibly every night. Until I realized these sounds were nothing but fireworks– a storm hit my heart with enough force to wet my brow with sweat!
 
And one day, I was crossing under a big bridge– the sound attacked my ears and quickly entered my heart like a storm– the sound resembled the rocket launcher as it starts spitting its fire– until I realized the situation was nothing more than cars going over the bridge, with their wheels hitting the different gaps in the cement! …I was in this daze for long enough for my friend to realize & to answer my urgent question– by telling me: There is no rocket launcher, don’t be afraid man! Don’t be afraid!
 
The height of my activity here – and maybe my only one – when I went with my family during these weeks to spend one day in the scouts camp — and the camp was by the seashore. The atmosphere was nice from all aspects: the children, the beautiful activities they were undertaking, the tent erected on the seashore, the sand, the joy of the people, add to that restful balanced weather. But inside me, it was stormy, noisy & tiring! …with me, the nightmare of Aleppo was traveling to this place!
 
And how much I walked on the sand, pacing back & forth, thinking inside me of Aleppo– 
the stones, the people, the relatives, the brothers, the sisters, the church; and added to this inside me, on that day came the new interruption of the telephone lines and internet!   What will they do?  Is there food?  Is there electricity?
Is it natural for me to enjoy here while they are in the big prison, Aleppo? The joy of the people around me — is it true? Or is it fake?  In the pit of my thoughts & feelings, in trying to measure the magnitude of the suffering of my brothers there… do I laugh their laughter? Do I play their games? Do I enjoy their entertainment?  
The reality: it was expected of me to stay till midnight — till the scouts finished their camp around the campfire; but I could not… I had to leave right after lunch!
 
In these past 3 weeks, I did not need photos or a list of names or a news item to remind me of Aleppo and who’s there. Aleppo sits beside me in my every move, my every day, 
even in writing these lines.
 
The roads to Aleppo continue to be closed to travellers, and that means more days, possibly weeks… I will live in the company of this nightmare! And how do I endure its pressure on me!
 
Spiritual wilderness is often a result of suffering, grief and loss. This pastor’s nightmare wrenches my heart. It’s easy for us to disregard the suffering of people in faraway places — out of sight, out of mind. It’s easy to blame them for their own suffering — why can’t they solve their tribal differences peacefully? But the reality is they are our brothers and sisters and the conflicts date back hundreds of years and are complex. As Christians, our role is not to judge, it is to love and to do whatever we can to bring the hope of Christ to the hurting.
Please pray. If you can give to their relief, the organization Gerry and I give to is Canadian Global Response (a partner with the Canadian National Baptist Convention). The founder of CGR was born and raised in Syria and this cause is close to his heart. All money given goes directly to help Syrian people.

Author:

Christian writer and speaker trying to follow God one yes at a time.

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