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 CNS Story:

JESUIT-HOMS Sep-26-2013 (420 words) xxxi

Jesuit in Homs: Disease 'has captured some ... is knocking on the door'

By Catholic News Service

BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CNS) -- A Dutch Jesuit in the besieged Syrian city of Homs said those who remain are facing shortages of food and fuel -- even abandoned homes have no food left.

"Disease has captured some of us and is knocking on the door of others," said a letter by Jesuit Father Frans van der Lugt.

"No food has entered our besieged region for more than 15 months," said the Jesuit's letter, dated Sept. 23 and released Sept. 26 by the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, with U.S. headquarters in Brooklyn. "For months we were able to rely on local warehouses, but these are now empty."

"We are surviving on what little food remains in our homes, but we will be reduced to soon only find 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."

Father van der Lugt said if people knew how long the siege would last, "we could organize our affairs and calculate the expense for food use."

He also anticipated that during the winter, residents would "suffer from hunger, cold, lack of electricity and water."

"How can we heat a room and, if we find food, how will we manage to cook it?" he asked, noting the shortages of oil and gas. He also noted that wood supplies were dwindling: "Many abandoned homes are without windows and doors. They are even without furniture."

Government forces have recaptured much of Homs, but about 3,000 people are estimated to remain in the besieged part of the city still under rebel control. Aid to the Church in Need said few than 100 Christians -- mostly elderly, remained among them.

Father van der Lugt said those who remain faced deteriorating health, including weakness and fatigue due to lack of food. He said their movements were restricted to an area about the size of 247 acres, "and there is no way to escape from the eyes of the people who are besieging us."

However, he said, "there is an atmosphere of love, openness and interaction, and those of us who remain feel that we are one group."

"Each one of us needs to do more and more to help each other," he said. "A person has to pay much attention to the needs of another, to the point of forgetting one's own needs."


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