A Chaldean children's choir sings in the conference center. The group from Aleppo. © Aid to the Church in Need (KiN)
Six children from Aleppo have called on MEPs to do more for peace in Syria. In a video conference with the European Parliament in Brussels, children in a church reported on their everyday lives.
Everything was carefully planned in Aleppo and Brussels for the evening of the 6. December. High-ranking members of the European Parliament had promised to come, headed by Parliament Vice President Antonio Tajani. They wanted to speak on the feast of St. Nicholas, the "child saint," with those who otherwise have neither seat nor voice at the negotiating table: With children from Aleppo. Your hometown has become the epitome of all the horror that has been happening in Syria for the past six years. 25 children wanted to come to the unusual conference organized by the worldwide Catholic relief organization "Kirche in Not" (Church in Need). Then the bombs fell.
At noon, Father Ibrahim Alsabagh called from the western part of Aleppo: "The bombing is so heavy here, too, that schools have been closed down." The streets are deserted, he said. "The mothers will never allow their children to come."This is what everyday life in Aleppo has been like for years.
The impossible has become possible
18:00 o'clock in the Brussels meeting room: 15 parliamentarians are there, media representatives, a Chaldean children's choir, Jesuit Father Ziad Hilal. He had come from Aleppo the day before, before the renewed bombings. Tense waiting. And finally, images of six children flicker across the screen, waving shyly, gazing curiously. The impossible has become possible – wrested from war.
Vice President Tajani welcomes the small conference topics: "We are close to you in Aleppo. The international partners must resume their dialogue as soon as possible to end the conflict." Only the day before, a UN resolution for a ceasefire in Aleppo had failed due to the veto of Russia and China. Tajani thanks aid organizations and helpers on the ground for their work.
One of them is Father Ibrahim. He organizes food and takes care that the families of his community can get electricity and water at least a few hours a day. He plays, paints, sings with the children of his neighborhood, Christian and Muslim alike. And he talks to them, helps to process the horror. "It's an absurd war," he says. "And those who suffer the most are the weakest – the children.One hopes a lot from an EU intervention, "so that the young people can remain in their homeland"." The Church in Syria is trying its best to make the children feel "a touch of peace".
Brussels listens to children from Aleppo
And then they have the word. One child after the other steps in front of the camera. They recite their statements in a mix of Arabic, English and French, quietly and often choppily through the jerky Internet connection. On the other side of the line, in Brussels, it becomes there completely quietly.
John Paul, 10 years: "I can no longer sleep at night because of the bombs. I have lost friends because of the war. We have no more playgrounds."
Salim, 14 years old: "All my friends are dead or have fled. When we go somewhere, we don't know if we'll come back alive."
Ten-year-old Syline has the same experience: "We are afraid that our school will be bombed and that we will never come home again." But also at home the fear prevails. "Bombs are falling everywhere. We have no water, no electricity. We hope you can help us."
In Aleppo, the daily routine of war continues
More statements to follow. Some children falter – tears in their eyes. "We will lose a people, a culture and a civilization if peace does not finally come to Syria," explains Father Ziad Hilal, himself a Syrian and an eyewitness to the situation in Aleppo. "People in the Middle East could be important mediators – between East and West, Christians and Muslims."They could, if it were not for the war.
Then the one-hour conference is over. In Aleppo, the daily routine of war continues. In Brussels, the participants still linger in front of pictures of children. They are a selection of the works painted by more than a million Syrian children during a nationwide day of action organized by Aid to the Church in Need together with churches in the country. The children have also written messages. One of them reads: "We don't want war anymore. Give us back our childhood!"