They live in the Masaken Hanono, a suburb in the Eastern part of Aleppo, Syria. They have banded together from all across the bombed-out remains of the city. Some of them resort to stealing from each other. Some band together to defend each other. They are the cats of Aleppo and they have a guardian, Mohammad Alaa Aljaleel, an ambulance driver who scrounges enough food every day to care for 170 cats and 2 dogs, some of the animal survivors of the endless, inhumane, and ruthless campaign being waged by Vladamir Putin and Bashar al-Assad on the people (and animals) of Aleppo. Sometimes, one person, one heart stands out and shines amidst the darkness of evil and death. Mohammad is one of those shining hearts. He is an ambulance driver who saves wounded victims every day, trapped in the city by the relentless bombardments.

At the end of every day of his rescue work, Mohammed provides food for the animals in his sanctuary, that he calls the Ernesto Cat Sanctuary. People from around the world have contributed to help Mohammad’s efforts. He post pictures. As one supporter put it so well: “After all the rescue work today, all the tragedy and pain – still the cats eat….We love you for showing us what love looks like.” The money provided for the cats has also purchased food for children, bought two more ambulances, and paid for a playground so the children can visit with the cats. Both the cats and children are terribly shaken by the stress of the incessant bombings but they find solace in each other. Mohammed sees his role quite clearly: “My role as a rescuer is not to differentiate between those who need help…To love the small, weak cats is to love everything.” Remind yourself of Mohammed and his exemplary and all-embracing love the next time someone try to incite you to fear and hate Muslims. The next time someone tries to make you feel that extremists represent an entire religion. They do not. Real faith can only be held by those who love their fellow man and love God. May God bless Mohammed, his cats, and his sanctuary of love in a landscape of harm. May God keep them all safe.

To find out more about Mohammed’s work: http://syriadirect.org/news/a-crowd-sourced-animal-sanctuary-in-east-aleppo-teaches-compassion-‘to-love-the-small-weak-cats-is-to-love-everything’/

http://www.odditycentral.com/animals/cat-man-of-aleppo-cares-for-hundreds-of-abandoned-felines-in-the-war-torn-city.html

http://www.middleeasteye.net/in-depth/features/cat-sanctuary-aleppo-helps-heal-animals-and-children-920607503