December 2016 /January 2017 - Vol. 89

candles and cross
Emmanuel God With Us” in Aleppo
“Bear each other’s burden, share each other’s joy”
A December 2016 Update Report
by André J. Codouni

The “Battle of Aleppo”

A once prosperous commercial center of Syria has been a divided city under siege for more than four years. It is now the epi-center of the conflict in Syria. While many who could chose to flee did so, some have chosen to remain. How can one survive in a civil war that continues unabated? Emmanuel, a Christian Community in Aleppo, chose to remain as a sign of hope and a witness to God’s presence with his suffering people there.

André J. Codouni, a member of the People of God in Beirut, has maintained close contact with members of Emmanuel. Below is a brief update from interviews with community members in Aleppo:

Mutual Support and a difficult reality

“In Emmanuel, we have set our hope on God being with us," a woman leader confidently says. “In the midst of this war, I can rely on my brothers and sisters to support me,” stated a university student.

However, things are not easy. Many traumatized lives are in need to be rebuilt now: As neighborhood schools in the western section of the city intermittently reopened three months ago, and the lively chatter of kids subsided around the homes, adults faced the reality of the difficulties ahead. Anxiety sets in, and temptations to doubt, question and rebel are much too strong to face without the grace of God; Even when dispelled they come back to haunt again and again about the future: How to pay for tuitions, how to replace the only family car destroyed in an instant, how to sustain the holiday cheer and what gifts can one afford?

Businessmen who employed dozens before the war, have to sell knickknacks and cigarettes in order to have a bit of money at the end of the day in largely empty pockets. Fortunately, churches and organizations are helping. But for how long, must the people feel that they are begging all the time, even for the most basic needs?

Every kind of contact whether by phone or internet from relatives and friends are very helpful for their warmth and for inspiring hope for a better tomorrow. Social media, when the internet works, reconnects people together; but everyone has to wait for their turn on certain hours of neighborhood generator use. Diesel run generators are a blessing but they are expensive to run for the fuel they consume.

The “Battle of Aleppo” continued to rage until early December. In these recent days when one side has “overcome” the other, it is too easy to forget that your opponent is a human person with great dignity in the eyes of God. The Lord has come for the sick, not only those who are well. Furthermore, it is not easy to forgive and be Christ-like during the prevailing situation as the last two months have made a very difficult situation for many to maintain hope: One is easily tempted to completely reject the “Other”.

Emmanuel continues to grow with courage. They are learning to live holy lives.

After their last joint retreat with the community from Lebanon, Emmanuel members went back to face the daily routine. But they are strengthened now to grow in holiness. To be more Christ-like, to put on the “fruits of the Spirit”, to forbear and to “guard the mind”. How to speak and act in love and gentleness.

There was a hymn we used during times of worship using the words of Jesus:
“Love one another, as I have loved you. Care for each other, as I have cared for you. And bear each other’s burden, share each other’s joy, love one another as I have loved you.”
Members of Emmanuel are living the command to love. Rejoicing with others in their successes, relying on the support and prayers of others, extending that support to others who need it. This has been key to standing strong together in the face of very difficult daily circumstances.

Providentially, they have continued to be protected physically despite the daily dangers. Let us continue to pray during this Advent and Christmas for Aleppo and for them, for protection, great faith, and persevering courage.

> See  previous update article on Emmanuel in Aleppo

André J. Codouni is a member of the People of God community in Beirut, Lebanon.

photo credit above: photo of candles with cross in background by (c) berkay at

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