Aid to the Church in Need interviews Father Ziad Hilal in Aleppo, Syria. By Maria Lozano.
How was it to celebrate Christmas without fighting for the first time in 5 years?
People are finally able to feel much safer when going out on the streets and going to church to participate in Mass. I believe nobody skipped the Christmas Mass knowing that the city is safe from the arbitrary shelling and bombs that used to hit the city. Many churches were damaged during four and a half years of war, but Christmas was held at some of those churches to thank God and celebrate the occasion.
Were you also in East Aleppo to celebrate in places where you could not celebrate last year?
There are no churches in East Aleppo to celebrate Christmas. I went to Jibreen district, where the displaced people from eastern Aleppo were placed, and distributed humanitarian aid.
Are the majority of the population in Aleppo celebrating Christmas or just the Christian population?
Christmas means wonderful and colourful lights and decorated trees to the Muslim population. Even before the war, the Muslims used to come to the Christian neighbourhoods to enjoy the festivities and the celebrations. This year, a big Christmas tree was setup in Al-Azizia district and was lit with countless light bulbs. Most of the city officials and citizens came to see the tree and take pictures with it on Christmas day and the following days.
Are the children in Syria getting Christmas gifts – from Santa Claus, Jesus Child or the Three Wise Men?
Each church was visited by Santa and distributed gifts to the children of their congregation.
How is the humanitarian situation in Aleppo now? Do you have electricity and water again?
Aleppo has been without electricity and water for five years in a row now. People still rely on generators and water delivered by small trucks to fill their house tanks. The humanitarian associations and churches continue to support the people during these difficult times.