A Light for Aleppo
Offering a light in the darkness, to show those who face daily conflict and starvation that the world is spreading out beacons of vigilance and hope.
At 5pm on Sunday 20th November, as the dark nights begin to draw in, communities will gather along the Firth of Forth in Scotland and in other sites around the world to light lights of hope for those besieged in Aleppo.
The Chaplaincy has launched this project and our hope is that people will join in, wherever they are, or light candles in their own homes. Our project website has links where people can donate to Oxfam and Medicin Sans Frontieres, who are working in the region. There is also information on the project website about planned events, how people can organise their own event, or how they can get involved if they cannot attend one of the planned events.
All people still living in warzones around the world have less and less food to live on each day, fewer and fewer medical supplies to respond to the constant arms attacks, and aid cannot easily get through. We want them to know that wherever they are they not forgotten, and the world is watching. When we are helpless to do much, we can answer the darkness by sending messages of light around the world.
Aleppo Magazine Write-up
What started as an idea of lighting beacons on the seven hills of Edinburgh in early October grew to become a larger, more inclusive, initiative headed by the University Chaplain, Revd Dr Harriet Harris. A Light for Aleppo was launched from the West Beach at North Berwick, with communities joining in from Dunbar round to Fife, lighting up the coastline of the Firth of Forth on Sunday 20 November, 2016.
Other Coastal communities joined in including Eyemouth, St Andrew’s and Aberdeen. Then we began to hear from the islands: Mull, Iona, the Orkneys, Cumbrae, the Shetland Isles. Inland communities lit their torches too, and from as far afield as mainline China, Japan, Chile and South Africa, and with multiple groups across the United States of America.
We had by the night of 20 November over 160 pins on the map across 19 countries, and heard of others that had not been pinned. We estimated that 1700 people were involved in UK events on the Sunday evening, and it is difficult to estimate the worldwide response. Overall, 6443 unique individuals from a total of 55 countries looked at the website.
On the day itself Bethlehem, the Philippines and Columbia all joined. We began to hope that with people lighting beacons, or even individual candles wherever they were in the world, we might create a trail of light all the way to Aleppo itself. The first photo to come in on 20 November was indeed from Aleppo.
Our intention - to keep faith with the people of Aleppo, show them they are not forgotten by the world, and where possible to help get funds to the charities working there - was being realized.
The BBC covered the lightings, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-38029172, and Harriet gave an interview that morning on Good Morning Scotland, as a result of which, newly arrived Syrians in Scotland made their way to the various of the lightings that night. We are very grateful to those who helped to spread the news, including: the University of Edinburgh; the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, who made a film with Syrian student Gais Masri; the Vatican News Agency; the SayItForward initiative; John Philip and Lai Newell’s Heartbeat Organisation; Edinburgh Centre for Peace and Justice; and Edinburgh City of Sanctuary.
As the situation worsened for Aleppo in December, we ran an internet ‘the world is watching’ Campaign, having been assured by Syrians who had escaped Aleppo or who had relatives there, that such gestures were vital. Vigilance lay at the heart of this campaign, as indicated in the ‘A light for Aleppo’ logo, created ECA student, India Pearce.
The crisis in Syria continued to decline with the Government forces eventually retaking the east of Aleppo. We became signatories to an open letter to the Russian medical community from the Syrian American Medical Society and on the 4th of December the University Chaplaincy dedicated their annual Carol Service to the refugees of all conflicts.
As we moved into the Christmas and New Year period we launched the “Season of Light”. Again we were stunned by the uptake and by New Year’s Eve we had 212 events on our map across 25 countries.
We continue to raise funds for charities based in the region. The details can be found on the website: http://www.alightforaleppo.org/
Thank you to Gary Shockley of North Carolina who sent us a painting he made of a harrowing scene many of us will remember:
Thanks to this poem, we know that the boy’s name is Omran:
Omran They have you put down there Omran Your head besmeared with dust and blood On a chair in an orange environment First Aid in the background Crestfallen you stare into the emptiness, That we have created. Besotted you look for you into a foolish human world A world that you do not understand You can wipe your blood At that chair Dust and blood can not just be wiped off. Five years ilast the war now That no one can win. Who dares to put a smile On your face?
We are very grateful to those who helped to spread the news, including: the University of Edinburgh; the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, who made a film with Syrian student Gais Masri; the Vatican News Agency; the SayItForward initiative; Edinburgh Centre for Peace and Justice; and Edinburgh City of Sanctuary.
There were interviews for Good Morning Scotland and Radio Forth One on Sunday 20 November.
Below is a list of online articles in the press.
The press association also wrote a piece on Monday morning.