Christians in Aleppo have celebrated Christmas among ruins

Aid to the Church in Need interviews Father Ziad Hilal in Aleppo, Syria. By Maria Lozano. How was it to celebrate Christmas without fighting for the first time in 5 years?aleppo_christmas_2016_3 People are finally able to feel much safer when going out on the streets and going to church to participate in Mass. I believe nobody skipped the Christmas Mass knowing that the city is safe from the arbitrary shelling and bombs that used to hit the city. Many churches were damaged during four and a half years of war, but Christmas was held at some of those churches to thank God and celebrate the occasion.   aleppo_christmas_2016_2Were you also in East Aleppo to celebrate in places where you could not celebrate last year? There are no churches in East Aleppo to celebrate Christmas. I went to Jibreen district, where the displaced people from eastern Aleppo were placed, and distributed humanitarian aid. Are the majority of the population in Aleppo celebrating Christmas or just the Christian population? aleppo_christmas_2016_1 Christmas means wonderful and colourful lights and decorated trees to the Muslim population. Even before the war, the Muslims used to come to the Christian neighbourhoods to enjoy the festivities and the celebrations. This year, a big Christmas tree was setup in Al-Azizia district and was lit with countless light bulbs. Most of the city officials and citizens came to see the tree and take pictures with it on Christmas day and the following days.     aleppo_christmas_2016_4Are the children in Syria getting Christmas gifts – from Santa Claus, Jesus Child or the Three Wise Men? Each church was visited by Santa and distributed gifts to the children of their congregation. How is the humanitarian situation in Aleppo now? Do you have electricity and water again? aleppo_christmas_2016_5 Aleppo has been without electricity and water for five years in a row now. People still rely on generators and water delivered by small trucks to fill their house tanks. The humanitarian associations and churches continue to support the people during these difficult times.

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Founded in 1947 as a Catholic aid organization for war refugees and recognized as a papal foundation since 2011, ACN is dedicated to the service of Christians around the world, through information, prayer and action, wherever they are persecuted or oppressed or suffering material need. ACN supports every year an average of 6000 projects in close to 150 countries, thanks to private donations, as the foundation receives no public funding.