By Sheraz Khan, Middle East Correspondent for ASSIST News Service
ALEPPO, SYRIA (ANS – February 14, 2018) – Christian students from Syria have described how they put their lives on the line to continue their studies despite the bombs, and other violence that still beset the war-torn country.
According to a press release written by Murcadha O Flaherty of Aid to the Church in Need (www.acnuk.org) – also known as ACN — a Catholic charity, that provides scholarships to young Christian Syrian students, said that the Christians students told ACN that their “faith” and “determination” were vital as they studied at the University of Aleppo, which remained open even at the height of the war.
Church leaders working closely with the students paid tribute to their [Syrian Christian students’] “courage” and “faith,” said the release, adding that one Sister [A Catholic Nun] praised the students’ “fervour” to pursue their university and college courses in Aleppo.
It went on to say that *Albert, a young Christian man from Qamishli, northern Syria, described his struggles studying for an industrial engineering degree.
“We experienced severe fighting [in Aleppo]. A number of my friends had to quit their studies because of it. I decided to risk my life, and finish my degree,” he said.
ACN said *Albert said he was afraid of being called up for military service despite what he called his “period of immunity” as a student.
The charity quoted Angel Samoun, an aeronautical engineering student, also from Qamishli, as saying: “I did not want to go to Aleppo. My family also did not want me studying here. But this is where I was accepted… I even went to classes during bomb alerts. The most difficult part was being separated from my family.”
ACN featured another student, Ms. Lara Lias, from Daara, a city in southern Syria, who they said told them, “I was very afraid because I was so far away from my parents’ home. When I came [to Aleppo], my family said good-bye to me as though I were dying.”
It said Ms. Lias praised four Sisters of the “Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará,” who work at a hall of residence overlooking the University of Aleppo.
“The Sisters support us a great deal. The most important thing is to love God,” she said.
ACN stated that one of the Sisters, Reverend Mother Laudis Gloriae, said that the inhabitants of Aleppo demonstrated an impressive faith in God, and their witness helps her grow in faith every day.
“The fervour with which these young people pursue their studies — in spite of the battles we have experienced here – is palpable,” she said.
It has been a dangerous place for people to live, and a missile strike in 2013, close to the hall of residence, killed about 400 people, including a religious Sister from another order.
Father David Fernández, an Argentinian priest working in Aleppo, spoke to ACN about supporting 30 male students at the city’s Jesus the Worker residence hall.
Father Fernández, described how people were killed when a bomb landed close by. “I had to recover the bodies,” he said.
Antranik Kaspar, a student of economics, praised Father Fernández’s support for the young people and quoted Kaspar as saying: “Father David is just like a father to us. We greatly appreciate the people who have left their families and their homelands in order to live here with us and help us.”
Father Fernández was then quoted as saying. “We are receiving support from our congregation, but also from other organisations such as the international Catholic pastoral charity, Aid to the Church in Need, which has made funding available to us so that we can buy computers and pay tuition fees.”
In 2017, Aid to the Church in Need’s emergency aid for Syria included more than £900,000 (about $1260.45 USD) towards education.
“More than 9,000 children in Syria’s primary schools have benefitted from the charity’s scholarship support as well as transport to school, purchase of school uniforms, basic books and stationery” the group concluded its press release.
- ACN withheld the true name of *Albert for security reasons.
Aid to the Church in Need is a Pontifical Foundation directly under the Holy See. As a Catholic charity, ACN supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in need through information, prayer, and action. Founded in 1947 by Fr. Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope St John Paul II named as “an outstanding Apostle of Charity,” the organisation is now at work in 140 countries throughout the world.
Undertaking thousands of projects every year, the charity provides emergency support for people experiencing persecution, transport for clergy and lay Church workers, Child’s Bibles, media and evangelisation projects, churches, Mass stipends and other support for priests and nuns and training for seminarians.
Aid to the Church in Need UK is a registered charity in England and Wales (1097984) and Scotland (SC040748). ACN’s UK office is in Sutton, Surrey and there is a Scottish office in Motherwell, near Glasgow, and another office based in Lancaster that covers the North-West of the country.
Photo captions: 1) Father David Fernández with students. 2) The horror of war. A man is seen carrying a baby in war-torn Aleppo. 3) The rubble of a damaged university building caused by an explosion in Aleppo 4) A Christian praying a in bombed-out church in Aleppo. 5) Sheraz Khan.
About the writer: Sheraz Khan, South Asia Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, is a Pakistani-British journalist. He lives in Scotland and can be contacted by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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