The death toll rises in a country already in ruins
“According to the first information we have received from our partners, the February 6 earthquakes that devastated parts of Turkey have also affected Christian communities in Syria,” says Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director of Aid to the Church in Need Canada (ACN). “We ask all our benefactors to pray for all the victims of this terrible natural disaster that was felt even in Lebanon. There, people feared a repetition of the tragedy in the port of Beirut,” she said.
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The Greek Catholic Archbishop Emeritus of Aleppo, Jean-Clement Jeanbart was injured, but there is no fear for his life. His house collapsed and one of the residents, Father Imad Daher, died. ACN has also received unconfirmed reports of deaths among Christian families in Aleppo and Latakia and at least 20 injured Christians in Hamah. Some sources put the death toll in Syria alone at 1,500, a figure that could not be verified by ACN. This new catastrophe is adding to the other misfortunes of the country, which is already facing a difficult situation after more than a decade of war, persecution and, more recently, a crisis that is almost paralyzing economic life.
ACN has also received reports of structural damage to buildings such as the Syrian Orthodox Cathedral of St. George in Aleppo, the Franciscan Church in Latakia and minor damage to the ACN-supported Center of Hope in Aleppo.
“Tonight, a time of prayer was held in Homs while the Carmelite nuns in Aleppo confirmed that they are hosting five families in their convent,” says Marie-Claude Lalonde. “They told us that they pray for peace and that they have seen people in shock who speak little. According to them, there were several injured and dead people.
Thirty Seconds That Change Everything
“The Church in Syria is in shock. Even as far away as Beirut, people have taken to the streets, worried that another explosion is about to rock their country,” said Regina Lynch, project director for ACN International, who also called for prayers for all those killed, injured or affected by the natural disaster.
Archbishop Jean Abdo Arbach of Homs has already commented on the earthquake, saying that the 30 seconds it lasted “completely changed the lives of thousands of people”.
“Let’s hope that the earthquake opens the hearts of the international communities and all the leaders of the world, so that they help Syria and do not forget the people who are suffering. The population is in a state of absolute despair and anguish. There are people wandering the streets, not knowing where to go, and desperately looking for their family and friends. Many people are dead or missing,” added Msgr. Arbach, who is also the director of the Syrian branch of Caritas, told ACN.
Aid to the Church in Need will continue to assess the situation, gathering as much information as possible about the immediate needs of the local Church, so that emergency aid can be directed accordingly.
Meanwhile, ACN’s existing projects in Syria will continue to help the people, now more in need than ever.
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