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Sunday, October 20, 2013, 06:43 PM
Home Pastoral Care

Catholic Doctor “Flies High” with The Flying Hospital to Treat the Less Fortunate in Aleppo, Syria

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Catholic Doctor “Flies High” with The Flying Hospital to Treat the Less Fortunate in Aleppo, Syria.

Singapore’s Catholic Ophthalmologist becomes the First-Ever Singaporean to be selected to join Flying Hospital Team (ORBIS) on its mission to raise the quality of eye-care in the Middle East .

Dr Christopher Khng visited Aleppo Syria in June 2008 not only to volunteer his services in his medical capacity but also got to visit a biblical historic site. It was like a journey through the Bible, as the land of Allepo, in the early Christian times, is where Abraham lived and distributed some milk to every comer in 311-280 B.C.

Aleppo was selected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986 , it is the second capital of Syria, 350 km north of Damascus, and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in history. Abraham is said to have camped on the acropolis, which long before his time served as the foundation of a fortress where the Aleppo citadel is now standing. He milked his grey cow there. The city has many mosques, the most notable being the "Great Mosque" (Jami al-Kabir), also known as the the Zakariyah Mosque. A pagan temple that once stood on this site was rebuilt as Aleppo's great Byzantine cathedral founded by Saint Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, which contains a tomb associated with Zechariah, father of John the Baptist.

Historically, Aleppo remains the centre of the French Catholic Missions of Syria. In 1625 the Carmelites established themselves there; somewhat later they retired to Mount Carmel where they built a monastery. In Aleppo they were succeeded by the Lazarists from 1785 to 1869. In 1873 the Jesuits founded a mission at Aleppo too. Syria is in deed an ancient and historical site to visit and learn from. It is a wonder to see how peacefully different religions (notably Islam and Christianity live together where mosques and churches are situated side by side with each other.

Dr Christopher Khng, who is Singapore’s only ophthalmologist to be trained in dealing with complicated cataract cases and iris reconstruction, joined a team of ophthalmologists in the Syrian city, where they trained 50 Syrian ophthalmologists, 30 nurses and 15 biomedical engineers in various topics like the latest techniques and technologies in ophthalmology, general maintenance of ophthalmologic equipment and post-operative care of patients.

During the tour to Aleppo, the ORBIS team performed sixty eye-surgeries and an additional 20 laser procedures were performed during the medical retina sessions. All of these sessions were performed on a plane that was fully (fitted out) equipped to be a teaching hospital.

“ORBIS has spent the last 25 years crossing cultural and geographical lines to help save the sight of many people;” says Dr Christopher Khng. “Singapore was a beneficiary of ORBIS’s services until 1996 and I am really honoured that I am able to contribute by being part of their team to Syria. The standard of ophthalmology and other eye-care services has developed to very high level in Singapore and now, I am happy to share what we have achieved with my Syrian counterparts, so that they can reduce the number of people who lose their sight in Syria and the Middle East Region.”

Syria has a total population of 18.6 million people and as many as 130,200 people are blind with another 837,000 suffering from low vision. Around 45 percent of all cases of blindness in Syria are due to cataracts. Other treatable ailments that have caused blindness due to lack of treatment include, corneal scars, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.

Dr Jack Elia, 48 years, the Syrian Doctor who was attached to Dr Khng during his stay in Aleppo gave him a painting of Mother Mary to commemorate his once in a life time experience there. Dr Khng was not only awed and humbled by his experience in helping patients in Aleppo but as a catholic doctor it was a memorable visit to the land of Abraham.


The traveling Catholic doctor visits that coincidence with his professional medical travels has brought him to many places that had religious significance.

In 2000, Dr Khng visited Prague, Czech Republic in 2000.Church of the Infant Jesus Of Prague.

In 2004, he visited The Church of Norte Dame in Paris France.

In 2005, Washington DC USA, The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is the largest Roman Catholic church in the United States and North America, and is one of the ten largest churches in the world.

This Basilica is designated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as a National Sanctuary of Prayer and Pilgrimage in the USA, it is the nation’s preeminent Marian shrine, dedicated to Mother Mary. Commonly known as America’s catholic church.

In 2008,Hong Kong visited the church of St Bartholomew in Wan Chai where the church was situated at the top of a hill and mass was in Cantonese

In 2009 Vietnam, Hanoi, visited St Joseph’s church when is based on the Church of Original church in Norte Dame in Paris France.

Submited by: Benita Fong (Email:
Date: Mon 3/23/2009 3:23 PM


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