Priest after earthquake in Syria: We have seen death before us

Father Fadi Najjar Greek Catholic priest Father Fadi Najjar, who serves in Aleppo, Syria, appealed for prayers as his community faced the death and devastation after an earthquake struck Syria and Turkey on Feb. 6, 2023. | Credit: AVAN

Greek Catholic priest Father Fadi Najjar, who serves in Aleppo, Syria, related how he and his community have faced the death and devastation caused by the earthquake that struck Syria and Turkey on Feb. 6.

The priest explained that since the earthquake occurred in the early hours of Monday morning in Turkey and Syria, “people have been outside all night, they have left their homes” so “until now we have hardly been able to sleep, because every hour we’re receiving people at the parishes since we’re having aftershocks for 24 hours.”

Najjar said that “many buildings have been seriously damaged or have been directly destroyed.”

Najjar, 40, is the pastor of St. Michael Church in Aleppo, where he serves some 200 families and directs the Al-Inaya school where more than 300 students attend.

“There’s a lot of fear. We don’t know exactly what we can do and we’re also very hard hit, because we’ve lost a priest from our community,” Najjar told the Archdiocese of Valencia, Spain, in a statement.

“I don’t exactly have official figures, but we are talking about thousands of deaths, thousands of injuries, and many people who have lost their homes,” he said.

As of Friday afternoon, there were more than 19,000 deaths in Turkey and more than 3,000 in Syria, Reuters reported.

The demand for help is such that the priest himself, together with members of his community, have had to rescue people from the rubble: “Many people have died; I myself along with parishioners from the parish have worked to remove people from under the rubble such that we could hardly believe was happening,” the Greek Catholic priest recounted.

The expectations, far from improving, are getting worse in the region: “We are in a fatal situation. Right now in Aleppo it’s very cold, it has been raining for five or six days, and this is making the situation worse.”

Najjar earned a degree in theology in Granada, Spain, and works in his native Syria as head of the Christian Student Youth movement.

His final appeal was: “Join together in prayer, please; pray for us, please.”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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