For children growing up in Aleppo, Syria, life is anything but easy. In a city devastated civil war, bombings are common and death is never far away.
But for some 350 Christian children in the city, there is a light amid the chaos: Vacation Bible School.
The children gather under the motto “Be merciful as our Father is merciful” to pray for their country and to pray for the conversion of the jihadists.
“We're not afraid because every day we challenge the bombs and death with our joy of living,” Father Firas Lutfi told Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian Bishops' Conference.
The priest is in charge of the Vacation Bible School at Saint Francis Roman rite parish in Aleppo.
The Vacation Bible School is made of up children from different Christian confessions, both Catholics and Orthodox. They range in age from 3 to 15. During school time they also sing, play and make friends.
Fr. Lutfi said the initiative is “a light for a martyr city of the Syrian civil war.”
Over 250,000 have died in the war and millions of people have been displaced.
This year, the Pro Terra Sancta Association, which serves the Franciscan Custos of the Holy Land, asked Italian parishes to join the efforts. They can hold similar “Vacation Bible School” as a work of mercy so the Syrian children feel they are not alone.
Organizers hope that through this initiative, Italian children will learn what life is like for Christians in the Middle East.
Fr. Lutfi reflected on the outreach to Italy, saying “we need this communion with you.”
Father Ibrahim Alsbagh, the pastor at Saint Francis church, said that even in a partially destroyed Aleppo, Christians can manage to overcome their circumstances with the joy of being together and through an experience of life and friendship in the name of Jesus.