In December, Maria Voce, the Focolare Movement’s president , launched an international campaign to stop the Syrian conflict and to ask for peace talks be resumed for the good of millions of unarmed and defenceless citizens: Time out. A minute of silence and prayer for peace, all over the world at 12 noon (local time), now directed particularly for peace in Syria.
Some friends from the Focolare Movement’s community wrote to us from Damascus and Aleppo: “Twenty-two months studded with unspeakable and countless pain that has left its sign. This is how we find our Syria and our people. We crossed the Lebanese border after a smooth travel along mountain roads, which were only recently usable due to the abundant snowfall in the past few days. Notwithstanding a reassuring blue sky, one can sense in the air a feeling of great uneasiness.
The controls at checkpoints are precise; we encounter more than one of them between the border and the outskirts of the capital, before reaching the neighbourhood wherein lives a family that will host us for the next few days, until the small accommodation generously accorded to us by the local Church will be ready. Though we haven’t reached yet, our mobile phones are already ringing or receiving messages from our friends from Aleppo, Hama, and Damascus who wanted to “welcome us” back! The joy is deep, contained, and tinged with anxiety due to an uncertain future. From the outskirts, the sounds of mortar and cannon shots are rare.
The news on TV was not very encouraging. Speaking with one of our friends we understood the magnitude of the game being played at the people’s expense. A game being prepared since years, which intends to distort the structure of the Middle East and in front of which one feels small and powerless. The international and regional politics seem miles away from the people’s suffering, as if it were not considered. And the people were tired. From Aleppo they described in a few sentences via telephone (that miraculously worked! ), the continuing hardships, the biting cold, the lacking water and electricity, the bread that is rare or at an exorbitant price, the blackmails and kidnappings for money in a city that was the country’s industrial and commercial centre. They speak of death that is always at the doorstep and of God’s providential aid. They were exhausted”.
And again: “We’re back from mass and behold the terrible news of the massacre at the university of architecture in Aleppo, due to two missiles that hit it and adjoining places, where besides many refugees were residing. We immediately tried to get in touch with our friends living there: a teacher and two students. Their voices were deeply moved. They recounted of unspeakable scenes. One of them who threw herself behind a car, saw bodies flying in the air and heard the cries of mothers in search of their children. The teacher narrated: “Today was the first day of exams, the bell had already rung and we were collecting the answer sheets. A pupil begged us to give him a few more minutes. He had arrived late due to the blocked roads. My colleagues were reluctant, but in the end I managed to convince them. At least five minutes elapsed before the student handed in his exam answer sheet. We went down to the courtyard and headed towards the exit. I saw the two missiles passing one after the other above me. I would have been exactly in the place they hit. I found the car with a caved in roof and shattered windows. But we were saved thanks to an act of love towards a student.”