Angels and Demons

Publish date 04-08-2022

by Matteo Spicuglia

The oblivion of the Syrian war and the paradox of communication













Oblivion can be an angel or a demon. And an angel when vengeance gives way to forgiveness and a new beginning takes over every claim. He is a demon when indifference adds pain to pain and those who are moved do so with only one eye.

The Syrian war today knows only demons. Begun in March 2011, in fact it is not over yet: a trail of suffering from half a million deaths, eleven million displaced people, dozens of cities destroyed, no signs of reconstruction. "Hope - says the apostolic nuncio, Cardinal Mario Zenari - has gone from the hearts of so many people and in particular from the hearts of young people, who see no future in their country and try to emigrate".

Those who stay tell a terrible reality.

Like Father Ibrahim Alsabagh, a Franciscan who never left Aleppo, even in the darkest moments. With the brothers of the convent of San Francesco he helped everyone: the church located on the front line, the well of the convent accessible during the siege to all the warring factions, a closeness made of humanity and concrete aid.

It is he himself who recounts the evidence that the population has been experiencing in recent weeks, the atrocities of a war scenario that no one now recounts anymore. The present in Aleppo is marked by a "cold that bites without any possibility of heating", by "a hunger due to inflation and rising prices, especially food". «Ours is a life in the dark - writes Father Ibrahim - we have two hours of electricity a day in the city, which is not enough to get water into the houses. For days and days it was almost impossible for us to take a shower, clean the clothes and rinse them and iron the clothes ».

After Covid, the war in Ukraine was the last shockwave of an interconnected world. «A few days before the start of the war, - says Father Ibrahim - the flour had already disappeared from the Aleppo market. With the onset of the conflict, there was a sharp and sudden rise in food prices which resulted in further deterioration. Today, ours is no longer a life worthy of the human person ”.

Words like this speak for themselves. They are a provocation to our selective emotion that rightly makes us indignant at the atrocities that are taking place in the heart of Europe, but does not show us what is happening a little further on. Selective emotion that makes us collect tons and tons of aid for those fleeing the ongoing conflict, but be less generous because of the poverty that affects us relatively. Selective emotion that brings us to tears in the face of detailed testimonies from Ukrainian cities and does not move us in the face of the atrocities that no one can tell, because perhaps inaccessible to the international media.

Let me be clear, what happens in some respects is understandable and even normal. But that's not fair. And it also depends on us. Because our emotion should be creative, capable of imagining even when it does not see, of being close even to those who are far away, of suffering even when the pain of others does not challenge us.

Father Ibrahim shouts: "Please do not forget Syria, please, in the midst of so many worries, do not forget the man left on the existential periphery of the world, here in Aleppo". Please ... Are we willing to really do this?

Matteo Spicuglia

NP April 2022

The present in Aleppo is marked by a cold that bites with no possibility of warming up, by a hunger due to inflation and rising prices, especially food

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