Fighting in the streets makes it difficult for people to get food
Bread is being smuggled into Damascus as part of an emergency aid package from Aid to the Church in Need. In response to an urgent request, the charity is giving more than £15,600 in help for families who have fled their homes and priests ministering to them in Damascus.
Father Andrzej Halemba, Aid to the Church in Need’s Middle East expert, said that the grant will provide basic foodstuffs such as bread, vegetables and baby milk. According to the priest, who is in contact with Church sources in the country, the fighting means that these foods are in short supply.
He said: “Bread is not available now in Damascus – it has to be smuggled into the city from over the border which is half an hour away by taxi.”
Damascus is close to the Lebanon border where fighting has spread. Father Halemba said: “Church leaders report that it is a very difficult situation for all those in the city. It is a situation of siege – people are not being allowed to leave – and the situation is getting more and more tense.”
The emergency grant will provide food and housing for 107 displaced families in one parish. The charity is also giving Mass stipends to 12 priests. The families being helped have come from areas of Damascus which are no longer safe because of the fighting and from outlying villages caught up in the conflict.
Father Halemba said: “They are in a desperate situation, they have had to leave their homes and run away from the danger zone. But they are being welcomed by Catholics, who have previously opened their doors to Christian refugees from other countries, but are now helping their own.”
Christians in the unaffected parts of Damascus have provided lodging for the displaced families – but they themselves have very little.
The latest Aid to the Church in Need grant will provide both hosts and guests with the means to survive.
Father Halemba also stressed that basic items for children are not available – which is why milk is being provided for them as part of the emergency package. He also described how the money from Mass stipends for priests would benefit the wider community.
He said: “Christians come to priests for protection, prayers and bread – the priests will be using these stipends to provide what they can for those who have come to them seeking help.”