By: Irmina Nockiewicz

Syrian Christians expect a new life in this Advent time, the same, as we do or even more. They look very much forward getting back home. Pontifical Foundation “Aid to the Church in Need” haste to help them with the reconstruction programs, at the same time supporting the activities to restore their hope and spiritual life. Some already have returned after many years of war caused displacement. Here is the story of one family from Homs, Syria.

Elias is now 60 years old. His family is not very big: there is him, his wife and two children still living with them. They lived in the old city of Homs. Before the war they could afford to have a simple life without making considerable savings.

During the war Elias’ family received a heavy hit. At the beginning of 2012 the groups of armed men entered in the area where they were living and terrorized the inhabitants. People were obliged to abandon their house. Like many others, Elias’ family left to save their lives. While they were leaving their home, a mortar shell cut across their way. It fallen just in front of them and Elias’ wife and son were injured by the bomb blast. Their bodies were wounded with ricochets. They were immediately carried by the Syrian Army soldiers to the hospital. They were lucky, they survived. After a week they could leave the hospital and continue their convalescence at home, but which home?

As they were chased from their house, they had no choice but to search for another solution in a safer area. Finally, they found a small apartment in Al-Arman district of Homs and rented it. They were waiting for the situation to calm down, but it wasn’t. They were not able to return and, bit by bit, their small savings were melting. The moment came that they were not only unable to return, but neither to stay where they were. They didn’t have money to pay the rent any longer. They were working here and there, but the war obstructed regular job opportunities. With the money they earned they could hardly afford to buy to eat, but it was not enough to continue paying the rent. They were in troubles. They were forced to knock at the door of their Church: Greek Melkite Parish in Al-Arman. Knowing them as regular church goers, the priest didn’t need to ask many questions. He confirmed some details and offered them a financial help. The parish priest registered Elias’ family for the support program sponsored by the Pontifical Foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). What a relief: God did not allow them to perish! In this dreadful time Elias’ family found a sanctuary in the Church. They could stay at the rented apartment thanks to the rent subsidy they started receiving from the Church regularly.

After five years, when their home neighbourhood was freed, they could come back. Their rushed for a first visit in this area, still risky, but they wanted so much to see their home. The view was shocking. They did not imagine it would be that bad. They realized that the return would not be possible, because their home was in ruin, their whole life was in ruin. There were no doors, nor windows, electricity wires were stolen, sanitary broken, even walls were affected. The heavy damage inflicted to their home was assessed by engineers as high as for 70% of destruction. Having already difficulty to cover the rent they could not even dream about the renovation. The situation was not improving, the war only moved to the other areas, they were losing hope for a normal life in Syria.

One more time the Church has stretched to them a helping hand. Elias’ family has learnt about and applied for the renovation support in frame of the reconstruction program of ACN. They have been accepted and they’ve launched the renovation immediately. The works have lasted for several months. Once the reparation has finished, they could finally return home. Elias has said to the Aid to the Church in Need: “Thanks God, we are getting back to our home, it gives us strength to start a new life with a new hope. We thank all the benefactors who supported our return home”. Home, sweet home, after so many years of displacement.

The work to be done in Syria is mainly the reconstruction, but not the way you think. Along with all the construction work, there is an urgent need to restore hope, to reconstruct the social fabric, to work on reconciliation, to repair broken hearts and renovate souls of so many. Syrian Christians expect a new life in this Advent time, the same, as we do or even more. They look very much forward the Nativity and they want a new hope to be born in their hearts. Christians and all society in Syria need a new hope to continue the struggle of everyday life marked with war violence. It is in this restrictive, unstable and lately violence-prone context that God has permitted his Church to grow in a remarkable variety of forms. Pontifical Foundation Aid to the Church in Need endeavor to support Church and haste to help the Church in Syria, especially the spiritual needs of Christian community through many various pastoral projects. Let us be all united and keep them in our prayers during this Advent time. Together with our Lady of Sorrows, Consoler of Syrians, let us intercede for our Syrian brothers and sisters. You can also help. Let’s pray together for peace in Syria.

Pontifical Foundation Aid to the Church in Need supported Christians in Syria with nearly 6 million Euros this year. Currently the project of reconstruction of 300 houses is implemented as part of the first stage of the plan, that foresees further homes to be rebuilt. Since the crisis in Syria began in 2011, ACN has completed nearly 870 projects for 36,5 million Euros involving more than 150 partners.