[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] A simple act of solidarity with the people of Aleppo by a parish of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland has turned into a global initiative supported by several Anglican churches. On 12 October, the parish of Kallio in Helsinki, began ringing its tolling bell at 5 pm each evening. The tolling bell, usually ring at funerals and to mark periods of mourning, was rung to mark the thousands of people killed during the military onslaught in Syria’s besieged city of Aleppo. A social media campaign, #BellsForAleppo, encouraged other churches to join in with the initiative, culminating today (Monday 24 October) – the United Nations Day.
Earlier this month the Aleppo-based head of the Bible Society in Syria, George Andrea, issued a heartfelt plea to the world: “Pray for us.” Speaking to the Norwegian newspaper Day (Dagen), he said: “This has been one of the worst weeks of the ongoing war there.
“Over the last couple of days, 16 people have been killed and more than a hundred wounded just close to where we live. Most of the dead are young people. . .
“You’re dead before you hear the rocket arrive. We live with the knowledge that we could just as easily be hit whether at home, at work or in church. There’s nothing we can do, nowhere we can go. It is God who decides.
“Every day we get to live is a gift from God. Therefore, people continue to live as normally as possible. They go to work, and they go on worshipping, though many of the city’s churches are now partially or completely destroyed. In the old town all the churches have been badly hit.”
Last week the Church in Wales joined five other UK churches in criticising the bombing of hospitals in Aleppo by Russian warplanes as a war crime; and last month the Archbishop of Canada, Fred Hiltz, urged people to pray for the people of the “ancient and once-beautiful city”.
The Anglican churches that are taking part in the Bells for Aleppo campaign include St Peter’s Anglican Cathedral in Adelaide, Australia; the historic Tewkesbury Abbey, in the west of England; and St Paul’s Anglican Church in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada.
Archdeacon Deborah Kraft, the Rector of St Paul’s in Thunder Bay, told the Anglican Journal that the church’s carillon bells were being rung for four minutes at 5 pm each day to remind people of the bombing of homes and hospitals and the suffering of innocent civilians in Aleppo.