A couple of pairs of scissors, combs, hairclips, a hairdryer – and Gracia can get back to working as a hairdresser and be able to feed her family. An old sewing machine, a bit of material, some shears, thread and binding – and Claudine can get back to her dressmaking and so stop her family from going hungry. It‘s just the little things that are needed. The Good Shepherd Sisters are helping to provide the tools they need. But they too need support and encouragement, for sometimes their strength can also falter.

How long? asks Sister Lolita of the congregation of Our Lady of the Good Shepherd in Damascus. ‘How long will these henchmen of the devil still be allowed to rampage? Can there ever be peace again in this country, for this savagely beaten and openly bleeding body that was once the Syrian people?’ People are asking themselves, ‘What have I done? Why has my home been destroyed, my future ruined, my children slaughtered, mutilated or enslaved? How much longer must we endure this suffering?’

Sister Lolita can recall all too many such stories of suffering. Every day she visits families who barely escaped death and who – despite all their hardships – are infinitely grateful to her. Ahmed used to live in Raqqa with his wife and two little girls, Hiba and Selena. He ran a small tailoring business and, thanks to his skilful hands, they managed to make a modestly comfortable living for themselves. Then the barbarians of IS arrived. ‘Indiscriminately shooting, they murdered old and young alike, burned down houses, drove the people from their homes. I grabbed hold of my wife and two daughters and ran for it, hearing shots behind me. Then they hit me in the left leg, and I also felt bullets in my back. I let go of Selena, told her to run to mummy and dragged myself after them.’

They managed to reach their relatives in a nearby village, and continued their journey the next night, finally ending up in Damascus. Ahmed stares ahead, eyes unfocused, forcing back the tears, and says, ‘I am so grateful to God that we have found a place to stay here for my wife and our two little angels.’ His wife strokes his hand, paralysed since that night, and tells Sr. Lolita, You are the shining light of our lives; with you we will overcome everything.’ 

This war has been going on for six years now, writes Sister Lolita, and there is no end in sight. ‘Six years in which young people had hoped to build their future and not lose it, in which families hoped to see their dreams fulfilled and not disintegrate into daily nightmares, six years when children should have been born and not killed, when young women and men should have married and not been plunged into disaster. How long must we still endure this?’, Sister Lolita asks.

he has no answer. No one does. She only knows that she and her fellow religious will keep on helping with the little things and with great love, like the Good Shepherd, so that the littlest and the helpless do not lose all hope. ‘For every soul counts in God‘s eyes, every life matters, every child is a prayer, an appeal from God to us.’ We are helping these sisters, so that they can help others. It is our responsibility too to make sure that no one gives up hope.

This article can be found in Mirror 0816.