Carmelite nuns have chosen to remain in their convent in Syria in spite of continuous airstrikes from both Syrian and Russian forces.
The women religious have appealed for help from Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). Sister Anne-Françoise of Aleppo’s Discalced Carmelite Sisters told ACN: “the bombs are falling all around us, but we are not going to leave the people in their suffering”.
The Carmelite convent is situated on the outskirts of Aleppo, an area under constant siege. Sister Anne-Françoise explained: “When the Syrian army attempts to prevent the opposition and other groups from entering into the city, the bombing and shelling is really close to us”.
The Sisters claim that many of the city’s citizens – including Christians – have left the city since the war began and only the very poorest remain. The nuns have taken in a number of families whose homes have been destroyed in airstrikes.
The situation there is very dire. Sister Anne-Françoise said: “We have no water, no electricity, and the fighting is continuing incessantly. Who could possibly come back in these conditions?”
Only 40,000 Christians are thought to remain in Aleppo. Pre-war estimates put the Christian population at 160,000.
The Carmelite Sister added: “The Middle East, the land of Christ, now risks becoming empty of Christians. That is unthinkable, and yet the situation is truly terrible”.
The report from Aleppo comes on the eve of the second anniversary of the expulsion of Christians from Nineveh in neighbouring Iraq. The Chaldean Archbishop of Baghdad – Louis Sako – released a statement today to mark the Nineveh Plains catastrophe that took place on August 6, 2014.
The catastrophe saw as many as 100,000 Christians flee from their homes in the province of Nineveh to escape ISIS militia after the group issued a deadly ultimatum.
Bishop Sako said in his statement that despite the on going threat of terrorism in the region, Iraqi Christians “can still hope for a better future” and that one day God will “bring them back to their land safe and sound”.
In further news emerging from the region today, ISIS captured 3,000 civilians attempting to escape its territory in al-Hawiji, the neighbouring province of Nineveh.
ISIS has already killed at least 12 from the group trying to flee the regime there, the UN Refugee Agency reports.
The US-led coalition conducts regular air strikes in the region of al-Hawiji.