Photo By Muhannad Ghannam  // Unsplash

Serving in Aleppo

CLU students spoke with Giacomo Pizzi to learn more about his work for Pro Terra Sancta in Aleppo.

On Sunday, April 2, the Communion and Liberation University students had a Zoom call with Giacomo Pizzi. Giacomo works for the association Pro Terra Sancta, supporting the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land. After living for three years in Jerusalem, he moved back to Italy. He regularly visits Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria and on February 6, when the earthquake hit, he was in Aleppo.

Giacomo told us a story of how they had spent quite a bit of time and money fundraising for an awning or shelter to allow kids to play even when the weather was poor, which got destroyed shortly after it was built due to the earthquake. He raised a very challenging question, which I’m paraphrasing: why do we continue to do this, to remain in this place, to do acts of service, when it seems as though there is little progress?

His response was very moving, as he said that after the earthquake hit and nobody knew where they could go for help, they went to the Franciscans. They have had such a long presence in the area (hundreds and hundreds of years!) that even the local authorities in a region where there is so much conflict and tension knew they could trust them to help the people. The fruit of this continuous presence of serving the Lord was made visible when, shortly after the earthquake, dozens of people arrived at the Franciscans’ doorstep and they were able to help feed and clothe people from different groups and creeds. Our work in serving the Lord is never in vain, even if we can’t always see the greater picture.

Giacomo told many other stories of meeting people in the area — a man who had his business taken from him and was still first and foremost praising God, children who were digging for rebar due to its value, amongst others — and it was impressive that the work of their organization doesn’t start from a goal, but from the needs of the people. For example, the children were cold when they were sleeping, so they distributed blankets. It seems to me that these gestures, while simple, have a profound impact even if they are not large ‘projects’.

I found myself grateful and surprised that he was taking the time to talk to us, a fairly small group of students in the US. Not only was I amazed at his desire to communicate the lives of these people to us (his English wasn’t perfect, and yet his desire to talk to us and love for those he encountered were so clearly understood), but his wife was days from giving birth! It was truly humbling that this man who is so evidently grounded in faith, yet in such a delicate situation, took the time to be with us.

Chevy, Bloomington, IN