Rosette Hechaimé is in charge of the assistance programs of Caritas MONA, headquartered in Lebanon. It is at the forefront of relief efforts to benefit communities affected by war and was itself directly harmed by the conflict in Syria when its center in Aleppo was struck by a rocket.
We asked her to tell us about family conditions in Syria.
1. What has been happening to families in Syria in these last few weeks?
Family conditions have changed substantially. Uncertainly is everywhere and the dangers, which are different from region to another, are always lying in wait. The strength however of our families’ endurance, hope and courage is extraordinary. They go to work as long as danger is not immediate, and their children go to school or college as long as bombs are not exploding in their yard, or their towns or cities are not hostages in a direct conflict. The hope for light at the end of the tunnel is still strong, and it gives them the energy required to keep going as long as possible in a more or less normal way .
2. What are things like in the refugee camps?
In the refugee camps, living conditions are life-threatening, particularly in winter with its cold, rains, flooding in the tents and shacks, and they produce tension, degradation, suffering, disease and a sense of abandonment. But in spite of all that, solidarity, as a quality, a virtue, still gets stronger. People who live in sorrow have much to teach us.
3. Amid such sorrow, are there signs of hope that would be helpful to recall and tell us about?
In the face of radicalization and the various aspects that the conflict is taking on, true signs of hope appear when persons like the Holy Father, through a call to prayer, to conscience, and to solidarity, succeed in, so to say, “changing the course of history.” But we are still waiting for action that is decisive, strong, reasonable and honest; that is without self-interest, and that is aimed only at restoring dignity to a suffering people.
4. Can you tell us briefly about something that parents who read our interview could tell their children to explain what is happening now in Syria?
I don’t think one story can describe what is really happening in a country brought to its knees by violence, but all the stories are linked by a common thread: fear of a disastrous future, with the door closed to hope, if the parties have no desire to end the fighting as soon as possible and if they do not resolve to enter into serious and honest dialogue to benefit the people and not particular groups only.
So many are tired of the savage violence on all sides that is encouraged by large and powerful interests. The people want to say “The End” to this senseless war and begin rebuilding their country to end the nightmare they are living through, but a clear sentiment of powerlessness pervades the community. The people don’t hold a trump card and all they can do is hope that the world makes some decisive move to stop this senseless slaughter. Fathers are tired of trying to chase down a job that will give them and their families something to eat. They agonize about the terrible economic crisis, with its ever-higher cost of living, that is another reason for the rising number of families in search of some way to emigrate and provide their children a peaceful and livable future. Not many are hoping for a miracle out of Geneva 2 or anywhere else, since powerful forces have been eyeing this region greedily for decades. There are many, however, these days who pray. They aren’t giving up. They know that trust in God is the winning card.