What is your country like, what situation have you left behind?
My only experience of war used to be from watching TV about Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq… I’d never have imagined that it would break out in Syria. We were a ‘rainbow nation’ with people of every sort, then suddenly war broke out and the colours disappeared: we became simply black and white. Neighbours looked at neighbours with suspicion, we lost our great tradition, peace, the ability to live together, our homes…We were forced to run away, losing our work and our friends… and people withdrew from one another. After living side by side we found ourselves on opposite banks. In every family there are people who have disappeared, kidnapped, orphans, killed…
Homs used to be a city full of life. We heard of gun battles elsewhere in the country and we thought that the TV was exaggerating. But sadly our city became a place where the warring parties clashed. Then we found ourselves in the midst of a gun battle. At that point I realized that Homs too had been engulfed by the war.
What is it like to experience war?
It means that the past instantly disappears – no more peace, no more freedom to go where you want without fear. Syria had been a safe country, where no one asked what your religion was. A friend of mine died, the first person I lost in the war. He loved peace. The people who die are just numbers: 30 dead today, 50 yesterday… But each one has a name, a father, a mother… When I found myself in church at my friend’s funeral, I cried as I have never cried before. When the priest asked: ‘What would Christ say now? Forgive!’, there was a stunned silence. All you could hear was the sound of people breathing. Everyone replied that we had to forgive, but I couldn’t manage it. I ran out in tears, I was burning with the wish to run over some of the killers with my car. But then I thought: what am I doing? I said to myself, should I also ill someone like my friend? I reversed the car and went back home. I prayed, God give me patience. I mustn’t kill, but avoid causing the evil I have suffered.
What do you hope for Syria in the future?
To see the country return to how it was, in peace. ‘Put away your sword and live in peace’, this ought to be the message of all religions. I hope that a media war like this would encourage young people to make peace and not war. Religious leaders should give a message of peace, so that the young can rebuild Syria.
Source: TV 2000, interview with Wael, 16 October 2012