October 10, 2013 — Jesuit Father Frans van der Lugt, a Dutch Jesuit currently in the besieged Syrian city of Homs, recently wrote a detailed letter depicting the extreme circumstances facing those still living in the city. The Syrians who remain are challenged by shortages of food and fuel, and even abandoned homes have no food left, according to Fr. van der Lugt.
"Disease has captured some of us and is knocking on the door of others. No food has entered our besieged region for more than 15 months," wrote Fr. van der Lugt in a letter dated Sept. 23 and released Sept. 26 by Aid to the Church in Need, a Catholic charity. "For months we were able to rely on local warehouses, but these are now empty."
Fr. van der Lugt described the lack of supplies in Syria in bleakly precise terms. "We are surviving on what little food remains in our homes, but we will be reduced soon to only bulgur wheat, and then soon that will be gone, too. We thank God that each and everyone one of use still gets 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of flour a week, but we do not know how long this supply will remain available."
Government forces have recaptured much of Homs, but an estimated 3,000 people are in the part of the city still under rebel control. Aid to the Church in Need reported that fewer than 100 Christians — mostly elderly — remain among them. Fr. van der Lugt said those who remain face deteriorating health, including weakness and fatigue due to lack of food. The residents’ movements are restricted to an area of about 247 acres, "and there is no way to escape from the eyes of the people who are besieging us."
Although conditions in Homs appear grim, Fr. van der Lugt also wrote about the hope that residents are drawing upon even in the midst of their struggles. “There is an atmosphere of love, openness and interaction, and those of us who remain feel that we are one group," he said.
The Syrians in Homs have made the best of the few blessings they have in order to make it through the crisis — that is, the presence of each other. "Each one of us needs to do more and more to help each other,” said Fr. van der Lugt. “A person has to pay much attention to the needs of another, to the point of forgetting one's own needs." [Catholic News Service]