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Syria: Mgr. Jeanbart (Greek Catholic Archbishop) to Christians, “Aleppo awaits you”. “Return” project to stop the exodus

“Aleppo awaits you”: this is the appeal that Mgr. Jean-Clement Jeanbart, Greek Catholic Archbishop of the Syrian martyr-city, made to all the faithful, to encourage them to return to the homes they were forced to flee to escape the horrors of a war which had split the city in two in July 2012 – Western Aleppo, controlled by the government, and Eastern Aleppo, controlled by the rebels – before it was completely recaptured by President Assad’s forces in December 2016. Today the situation on the ground is slowly improving, but as the Metropolitan pointed out in an interview with SIR news agency, “we still lack that security which is necessary for a lasting peace. Despite this, there seems to be less fear among the people of new attacks by ISIS”. “To support this return – the prelate said – we have made an appeal, ‘Aleppo awaits you’, by which we would like to publicise the project called ‘Return’. It is an initiative aimed at stopping the exodus of Christians from Syria, which is a real tragedy for our Church”. Before the war in 2011, there were 185,000 Christians living in Aleppo, but now the figures released by local Churches speak of less than half that number. The project is aimed at two groups of people: “The lucky ones, that is, those who have the means to provide for themselves, who do not require specific assistance and can therefore return to Aleppo autonomously; and those who are poor and need economic and moral support in order to return. The latter – the Metropolitan pointed out – will have their return trip paid for and will also be given financial assistance once back home so that they can live with dignity until they find a job. Such assistance may also include, if necessary, school and healthcare. The ‘Return’ project also envisages providing temporary support (1 or 2 years) to pay the rent of a new home if the returning family sold its property before leaving Syria”. In just a few weeks, 20 families have already returned and Mgr. Jeanbart hopes that “they will be signs of hope for those who come next”.

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