For the first time in four years, as the guns fell silent, Christians in Aleppo were able to celebrate Christmas in relative peace. Not even a random mortar bomb explosion in Azizieh Square on the evening of 11 December could prevent Christians gathering for the traditional Christmas-tree lighting. Amidst the rubble, church services were held, Syrian and Russian flags flew and the 35,000 remaining Christians out of a pre-war figure of 400,000, rejoiced.
Over the Christmas period, Syrian police and Russian troops in Aleppo distributed 45 tonnes of gifts to Syrian children, presents from Russian school children. As part of the Children of Russia to the Children of Syria campaign, a Russian Defence Ministry spokesman said: “Backpacks with candy, crafts and stationery have been collected by cadets, pupils of Ministry of Defence boarding school and ordinary students from Tula, Moscow, Vladimir, Vologda, Tver, Kaluga, Kostroma and other regions.” The event was marred by the crash of the Russian military Tu-154 aircraft into the Back Sea on Christmas Day, killing all 94 on board, including 60 members of the famous Russian military choir that was due to perform to in Aleppo.
On 23 December, Dr Jany Haddad, one of Barnabas Aid’s partners on the ground in Aleppo, wrote: “I would like to extend my sincere, hearty thanks to Lord Jesus and all of you at Barnabas, since the beginning of Aleppo war till today. You have stayed with me personally, with my family, with my church and with my nation. It is very clear who is for whom during such a gloomy, critical time of life.
“Our words cannot be fair to explain our debts to all of you. Our news will be the great proof for all of the world and its results, showing who stood with us and comforted us as brothers and sisters in the midst of the chaotic situations, in such dark conditions. All my people, committee members and our leaders have felt your support. The distance was not an obstacle but an open, direct pathway to reach us when we needed help in a desperate situation.
“Your fingerprints have left their effects on all my nation. Let us meet at His throne and give thanks.”