Like every Tuesday, I accompany this morning the volunteers of the antenna of Damascus to the Orphanage of Mar Boulos, the Arabic translation of Saint Paul. The taxi drops us at the West Gate, Bab Sharki. Every week, I try not to forget the privilege that is mine: taking the street, quoted in the Acts of the Apostles, a hundred meters from the house where Saint Paul was converted, thanks to the action of Saint Ananias, who had been inspired by a vision of the extraordinary man he would meet, and whose action will change the face of the world.
Here and there, ancient columns on which are fixed death notices remind us that Damascus is the oldest inhabited capital of the world. The orphanage is located on the side of the ramparts of the old town, where Saint Paul escaped by crossing the wall in a wicker basket. The Acts of the Apostles are worthy of the best adventure novels.
When we arrive in the yard, the children come running to us. I am always moved by the affection with which we are welcomed. Little Georges squeezes my neck in his too thin arms, as always. Each of their stories are tragic, yet they give us an impressive lesson in life. They are aged between 4 and 15, and are around thirty living here together, under the loving and caring supervision of Sister Nouhade, who sees them as her own children. Not everyone is orphaned; some have just been left behind by their families who can no longer afford to feed them.
Today, we continue to play with them, to be for them a simple adult and friendly presence. Each Tuesday afternoon ends with a small French lesson. They entrust us with their dreams. There they live, those whom the war has touched their hearts, a war that has carried away their parents, and yet they are full of plans and optimism. Sometimes we surprise one of them with tears. Without words to comfort them, we are content to be present with these little ones. I am always touched by the way the older children take care of the little ones. The older ones became little men and women responsible for the rest of the group.
These children whom we see each week have become our friends, and we are fortunate to receive their smiles and confidences. Our simple presence touches them and helps them and they teach us a lot. They are at the same time the face of the suffering of the Syrian people, but also that of hope and their dream of living in a Syria at peace.