By Elise Harris
Despite the war raging around them, Syriac Orthodox Christians in Aleppo have decided to provide food to poor Muslim families throughout the Islamic month of Ramadan.
According to Agenzia Fides, the information service of the Pontifical Mission Societies, faithful of the Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese of Aleppo are offering breakfast and evening meals to “the poorest Muslim families” living in the predominantly Christian and Armenian Sulaimaniyah neighborhood of the city.
The distribution center for the food, which is prepared by the Christian families themselves, is located at the archdiocese’s Cathedral of St. Ephrem the Syrian.
Ramadan is a Muslim month of intense prayer and fasting which commemorates the revelation of the Quran to Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. Meals are not taken during daylight hours, though food and drink are served before dawn and after sunset.
This year, Ramadan lasts from June 5-July 5. It ends with the holiday Eid al-Fitr, which breaks the fast.
A communique released by Syriac Orthodox archdiocese said the initiative is a simple gesture aimed at expressing solidarity between people of different religious backgrounds with the hope that it will, in time, help to restore the peaceful coexistence that existed among Syria’s various religious and ethnic communities before the war.
The Syriac Orthodox Church is an Oriental Orthodox Church. These Churches reject the 451 Council of Chalcedon, and its followers were historically considered monophysites – those who believe Christ has only one nature – by Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox.
The Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese of Aleppo is still formally under the authority of Archbishop Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim, who was kidnapped near Turkey in April 2013 along with the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo, Boulos Yazigi.
Aleppo is a hotly-contested city in Syria’s north: with a pre-war population of 2.3 million, it was Syria’s largest, but the population has now dwindled to around 1 million. The Syrian civil war, which began in the spring of 2011, spread to Aleppo in July 2012. It has been divided into government- and rebel-controlled sectors for years.
Three hospitals in the rebel-held portion of the city were hit by air strikes earlier this month.
Since the Syrian civil war began it has claimed the lives of more than 270,000 people. There are more than 4.6 million Syrian refugees in nearby countries, and an additional 8 million Syrian people are believed to have been internally displaced by the war.