Article republished with kind permission from Kari Fure, Dagen.no
“Pray for us,” says George Andrea, head of the Bible Society in Syria, based in Aleppo: This has been one of the worst weeks of the ongoing war there.
“Every day that we live is a gift from God,” he continues. People in Aleppo are living without water and electricity. They have nowhere to escape. And there are nowhere safe to shelter. Bombs and missiles are falling, causing huge damage throughout the city.
“Over the last couple of days, 16 people have been killed and more than a hundred wounded just close to where we live. Most of the dead are young people,” says Mr Andrea.
Major damage on both sides
Noting that much of the media coverage concentrates on covering attacks on rebels, he comments that “the reality is that there is major damage on both sides. We are all inhabitants of Aleppo, and we are all affected by the war.”
Mr Andrea is speaking over a noisy telephone line from the city that was once Syria’s economic capital. Today it is the world’s most war-torn city, but Mr Andrea is carrying on with his work.
Four years ago in July the war reached the city of Aleppo. The people of Aleppo did not want the war then and they don’t want it now. In Spring the fighting reached new levels of intensity, and it further escalated over the past two weeks, since the last truce broke down.
Mr Andrea describes a life where explosions roar day and night. There is no warning before the shells land and the rockets explode. There are no functioning air defence sirens to tell people to seek shelter.
Churches are partially or completely destroyed
“You’re dead before you hear the rocket arrive,” he says. “We live with the knowledge that we could just as easily be hit whether at home, at work or in church. There’s nothing we can do, nowhere we can go. It is God who decides. Every day we get to live is a gift from God. Therefore, people continue to live as normally as possible. They go to work, and they go on worshipping, though many of the city’s churches are now partially or completely destroyed. In the old town all the churches have been badly hit.
“God has given us hope ever since the conflict began, and as a Bible Society we serve all people and all churches, whether they are Orthodox, Catholic or Protestant.”
Despite the war, the Bible Society team has managed to bring in 30-40 tons of Bibles and Christian books each year. Most arrive via Lebanon, since it is not possible to send the books directly to Syria.
Demand for Bibles is high
“The demand for Bibles is high here,” says Mr Andrea. “Children’s Bibles are very popular. People feel that only the Bible can provide answers in this difficult time, and it is only God who can really meet their needs.
“For the Bible Society, this is actually a good time, because we witness and give people hope through the Bible. People in Aleppo are traumatised and exhausted after four years of war. They live with the grief of all their loved ones who have lost their lives, and with the fear of being hit themselves.
“Also, everyday life has become harder. Even small or mundane tasks are difficult. People are dependent on private generators for electricity, they have to get water by carrying it in buckets, and there is little to buy in the shops. We are tired and traumatised.”
He describes an incident he witnessed recently.
We are totally dependent on God
“I was out in the streets when a missile struck. People were blown all over the place. Many were wounded and some killed. Once people had collected themselves and felt in control of their actions, they stood up, brushed off the dust and did what they had to do without any emotions. They were just going through a routine, which they had done before: helping the wounded and carrying off the dead. So many bombs have dropped in Aleppo that people know exactly what needs to be done afterwards.
“What else can we do? Life is hard. It’s dangerous. And we are totally dependent on God. He is the only solution. At the same time we have realised that we must not lose our respect and love for man. God’s love for man made Him send Jesus to die on the Cross for each one of us. If man is so important to God he must also be important to us.
“Yes, this is what we have learnt through this conflict and we are crying out to God on behalf of each person in our country. Each one is precious in His sight! Please continue to pray. It’s the most important thing you can do for us.”