Why I asked to return to Syria


20150421-01With a lively gaze and gentle smile that veils some sadness, Ghada describes the tragic events taking place in the country she has chosen as her home. Ghada, what made you return to Syria?

At the age of tewenty I left my family and country to follow God. In September 2013 when I requested to return to Syria, I felt the same impetus as before. I was frightened by the thought that I might die, but what I felt more strongly was the attraction to go back and live alongside the people whom I had met years earlier, to help them feel that they were not abandoned. I was urged by a desire to share their life, their fears, their unstable daily lives, because the bombs rain down when you least expect it.

But isn’t there any warning before bombardments, so that you can take cover somewhere?

There are no sirens announcing the strikes, nor is there any strategy in place that would allow you to know when the rockets will hit. On the other hand, this is now the fifth year of war and one cannot stay barricaded forever. You can stop for a day, a month, but then even through the mortars thunder, life must go on: the children go to school and parents work to support their families. Everything goes on under absolute risk and uncertainty. I lived the same drama when I was in the focolare house in Lebanon, but here it is far worse, much more difficult. Here you breathe terror and violence on all sides.

You had already been to Syria in the past. Can you tell us about the changes you’ve seen?

20150421-02When I was in the focolar in Lebanon, I visited Aleppo, Homs and Damascus because there were still many people who wished to stay in contact with the Focolare. Because of the inner depth and sensitivity of the Syrian people, many meaningful relationships were created. We shared our Christian values that are so strongly felt in this place. Despite the plurality of Churches and rites, which is so typical of this land, there was still harmony amongst all. In 1994 when it was decided to open a focolare in Aleppo, two other focolarine and I were sent to open it. I was there for 9 years. Those were years of prosperity for Syria. The country didn’t have a public debt and the PIL was constantly rising. In the evenings we young women could go out and walk around freely.

Now the storm has arrived. But the worst of it is the loss of any hope that this war can end. I return with the other focolarine, to say that we haven’t forgotten them, that Jesus has made us a family and this is why we want to take the same risks. Like everyone else, we go to work, to church, to market – without knowing whether or not we’ll return home again. We’re there because of the love that binds the community in Syria, and the community there knows that we’re ready to give our lives for them, just as they are ready to do for us. This reciprocity is truly exceptional. They compete in making sure we are well, sharing whatever they have.

You focolarine are in Damascus, such a fascinating place, with so much art and history. What is life like there today?

In the city, but also in the villages, every day is a deadly challenge. Transportation is always a mess, because of the lack of petro and constant road blocks. You know what time you leave, but you never know what time you’ll arrive. Homes are without electricity for hours, the same with water. You reach the point of exasperation. The exodus – for the people who are able to leave the country – is continually increasing. It is estimated that over six million people have migrated, in spite of the serious dangers. But religosity remains quite strong. On Good Friday all the Christians attended the Way of the Cross even though they were well aware that bombs could have exploded at any moment, and they also had their children with them. Recently, one of our youth groups spoke had a Skype call with some of their peers in Portugal. The Portuguese wanted to send things to them and were asking our young people what they needed. Even though they are in need of so many material things, they only repeated: “Pray for us, pray for peace, pray that this tailspin of hatred stops.”

Your choice to remain in Syria is a powerful and courageous one. . .

20150421-03We don’t feel at all like heroes, because we are not here for personal motives. Before leaving I was able to meet Pope Francis: his encouraging words made me feel the love of the Church that draws near to this people that is undergoing such a hard trial. We also feel supported by the love of the Focolare Movement throughout the world. We need that support in order to not lose hope, powerless as we are in front of the supremecy of economic interests, and the international proliferation of weapons on the global market. We celebrate anniversaries; we create recreational moments for children and adults, in order to relieve the stress. We organise moments of spirituality; we pray together for peace. At Christmas our young people organised a concert. Three hundred people attended, including Muslims. Recently we celebrated a wedding. Two children were killed in that family and, because of mourning customs, that young woman couldn’t leave the house dressed as a bride. Therefore, she left from the focolare house, accompanied by all of us. We try to be involved in local Church projects and those of other ecclesial groups, so that we can help to wipe away a bit of suffering and deprivation amongst the people. We continue together to hope and believe, as we support every effort for the coming of peace.

17 Comments

  • Ghada carissima GRAZIE! Sono con te a sperare e chiedere con insistenza e fede il dono della pace! Assicuro la preghiera e l’UNITA’ a te e a ciascuno, con tutto il cuore

  • Carissima Ghada,

    grazie per la tua generosità a Dio, che insieme a tutti i nostri lì ci interpellano a vivere , pregare e AMARE, AMARE, AMARE per ottenere il dono della PACE.

  • Grazie per la forte testimonianza nell’ Amore di Dio, per la tua vita spessa per Lui e per gli altri. Conta che preghiamo e chiediamo insieme a tutti voi per il dono della pace e che finiscano tutte le guerre nel mondo. Siamo con voi e chiediamo tanta forza e luce per tutti .

  • Carissíma Ghada,
    Che grande grazia potere ofrire concretamente la tua vita al nostro popolo in Síria. Sono con te e ciascuno dei nostri a vivere e pregare per il dono della Pace!

  • GRAZIE INFINITE Ghada per la tua-vostra vita.
    Sono anche io con voi e tuttia pregare e vivere per la Pace!
    Qui in Svizzera ci sono tanti rifugiati Siriani… anche noi di Montet partecipiamo attivamente a iniziative della chiesa locale (non solo cattolica) per farli sentire “a casa” qui e per portare loro un po’ di amicizia e conforto nel grande dolore di aver dovuto lasciare la loro terra… Sentimi con te!!!!

  • ciao Ghada! anch’io voglio assicurarti (vi) della mia piena unità, fa bene all’anima sapere che siete li, per la famiglia di Chiara e per tutti!! chiedo tanta forza e la luce per voi !!! Che il male non abbia l’ultima parola

  • Grazie Ghada per la tua testimonianza e per quella di tanti fratelli e sorelle di Siria e Medio Oriente, terra e popoli che mi sono nel cuore. Contate sulle nostre preghiere . Sappiamo come anche nel dolore dobbiamo e possiamo continuare ad amare , nella verità nella pace e nella misericordia. Continuate a comunicare le vostre esperienze con tutti i mezzi che potete, ne abbiamo tutti bisogno.

  • Tu lo sai Ghada che sono e siamo sempre con te, vivendo e pregando per voi, per la pace e perché chi fa del male possa cambiare vita. Un abbraccio forte!

  • Grazie Ghada, a te e a tutti i focolarini presenti in Sria. Continuiamo insieme a chiedere il dono della pace e particolarmente nel cuore di ogni uomo.

  • Unitissimo per questo stile di vita: initiative per mantenere vivo la fiamma del amore dove l’imagine di Gesù Abbandonato è presente. Mi dà coraggio ad andare vanti per testimoniare che vince l’amore, l’unità e la vità.
    Nel vivere e pregare perché finiscono tutte le guerre nel mondo,

    Dieudonné

  • Uniti nel continuare a credere a sperare e a pregare. Grazie per aver messo sul sito questa intervista. Nessuno parla più della Siria descrivendo la reale situazione.

    • Grazie, di quanto scrivi e soprattutto di quanto vivi, di quanto vivete. È un esempio forte di fiducia in Dio, di vera umanità . Vivo nel mio piccolo per voi e con voi, Marigi

      • Carissima Ghada, grazie per dirci dell´ tuo amore di vivere insieme con il popolo della Syria! Vivere la loro vita! Prego , affinche la pace sara realtá!
        Qui in Íslanda, a Reykjavík ,ci sono apena venuti delle famiglie della Syria.
        Verso la Croce Rossa io mi preoccupa di una famiglia musulmana con 2 bambine.
        Grazie infinito per il tuo esempio! Voglio essere con te!

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