How the Salesians are helping youth in Syria, a country in its 12th year of civil war


Young Salesians in Syria. / Credit: Salesian ANS

ACI Prensa Staff, Mar 16, 2023 / 17:30 pm (CNA).

March 15 marked the 12th year of civil war in Syria, where bombs, poverty, and earthquakes have destroyed the country. Nevertheless, the Salesians — the order founded by St. John Bosco in 1859 to help disadvantaged youth — are trying to give hope to young people who have lost everything.

According to the Salesian News Agency (ANS), the armed conflict has focused on the north in an area controlled by rebels. This was compounded beginning in 2013 by attacks by the Islamic State terrorist group, which terrorized cities and killed Christians.

According to ANS, the war has taken a toll of more than a half million killed, 2.1 million injured, 13 million displaced, and an estimated 6.6 million refugees in other nations.

“More than 11 [million] of the 17 million inhabitants that the country has today urgently need humanitarian aid to survive, and among them there are 6.5 million minors,” the Salesians noted in a report.

All of this is aggravated by the lack of work and electricity, the rise in the price of fuel, and the devaluation of the currency. But more worrisome is the experience of future generations that are now growing up.

According to Father Alejandro León, superior of the Salesians in the Middle East, the younger generation “only knows war, and many young people who have lived most of their lives in the midst of violence are thinking of leaving the country.”

León noted that although they are educated in the culture of peace, many adolescents openly state that “they do not see a future for themselves and their families.”

As if this were not enough, northwest Syria suffered a powerful earthquake on Feb. 6, which along with its more than 11,000 aftershocks has killed almost 6,000 Syrians, destroyed more than 100,000 buildings, and left 1.5 million people homeless.

Despite everything, ANS noted that in these 12 years of war and destruction, the Salesians have not closed their doors but have financially assisted hundreds of families and welcomed the displaced.

They have also provided business training to groups of young people, some of whom have even received financial support to start their own businesses. The order has also rented apartments in order to give classes to the children and prevent them from traveling long distances to study.

The religious received many needy families in Aleppo and Kafroun after the earthquake. They are promoting volunteering by university students to serve children who are seeking to get up to grade level. In addition, they plan to build a youth center near Damascus.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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