“When the conflict in Syria began, seeing that the future didn’t promise anything good, I thought it would be more prudent to leave the country. This idea was strengthened by a job offer in Lebanon. So I secured tickets and began to ready my family for the journey. But many doubts began to crop up inside me. Was it right to go and seek a better future for the family, or was it be better to remain in the country that I loved, to help my people?
Talking it over with my wife, I realized that she was more inclined to stay, but she left it up to me. The only thing that mattered to her was that we keep the family together. I felt confused and upset until, one day – I was at church – I clearly felt that our place was here in Aleppo sharing the fate of our people. We are a diverse population made of many ethnic groups, different religions and confessions, but we’ve always lived together in harmony. We’re generous enough to accommodate Palestinians, Lebanese and Iraqis in recent decades, despite the embargo, offering them equal rights and job opportunities. We decided to stay.
I worked on my own and earned good money. But after the bloody events that began to devastate the country, my shop was robbed and then destroyed. Nevertheless, there have still been many occasions give assistance through the Centre for the Deaf which my wife and I started to take care of. Later we also began collaboration with other humanitarian organisations to provide – with the help of Providence that has always reached out to us with miraculous assistance – basic necessities to more than 1,500 families.
In these five years of war, due to the random bombings in our neighbourhoods, we saw so many families lose their loved ones and so many people left permanently disabled. One day, the driver at the Centre for the Deaf lost his wife and daughter when they were hit by mortar while walking down the street with the family. He was also seriously injured and taken to hospital in a state of shock. I was able to talk about his serious situation with a priest and when the bishop heard of it, he offered to take charge of the funeral for his wife and daughter. For my part, I began to look for money to pay for the Dad’s surgery. Seeing so many people taking an interest him the hospital lowered the costs and some doctors refused to accept payment for their service. So, not only were we able to cover all the expenses, but we had enough money left over to pay for the follow-up treatments that the driver would need.
Another time I received a telephone call from a Muslim who works in the church we attend. He was asking me to help him find a house he could live in. He had seen armed rebels entering his district and was worried about his three daughters. After many attempts we finally managed to find a home for them. Once he moved into the new house, he realised he needed a gas cylinder, but could not find one. Then he called me: ‘I ask for this help from you,’ he remarked, ‘because you’re my brother, aren’t you?’ And I answered: “Of course, we are brothers.”
Since the recent ceasefire we have experienced a period of apparent calm, although you hear rumblings from time to time that keep us awake at night. Regarding my activities, it’s impossible to even think about beginning them again until the weapons are silenced. The Focolare community is there to support us in the midst of our dangerous situation, along with God’s love that never abandons us. In front of every problem we never feel alone. We continue to experience peace in giving to others, a peace that remains a challenge because it is a gift that must be reconquered each day.”