“Christians and Muslims lived together before the war. There were no problems until ISIS arrived.”
They escaped from the war in Syria and the violence of ISIS terrorists. For over half a year now they have been living as refugees in Lebanon. They almost lost everything, including their lives. But one thing has kept them going and helped them survive.
Simon Alhabib, Syrian refugee: “We, as Christians, have experienced terrible situations, but this has not harmed our faith. We have always been faithful and we will be faithful, despite all we have lived through. We know that authentic belief has nothing to do with the violence done to us. We believe that everyone is free to profess their religion since our faith teaches us that we must respect others.”
Simon Alhabib and his brother, Admon, arrived in Italy just a month ago, thanks to the Humanitarian Corridors that were launched by the Community of Sant’Egidio.
They traveled to Lebanon from Syria by taxi, accompanied by their mother who was returning there. They fled their home city near the border, an enclave where Christians and Muslims lived peacefully.
Admon Alhabib, Syrian refugee: “Before the war there was no problem between Christians and Muslims. There were no differences. We lived very well but when the war started – and especially when ISIS arrived – the problems began for the Christians.”
Simon Alhabib, Syrian refugee: “Before the crisis there was no persecution, but with the war and the occupation by ISIS the problems started. We have friends who have been kidnapped.”
One such friend is Father Jacques Mourad, whom the jihadists abducted in the city of Qaryatayn along with dozens of Christians. Once released, the priest was about to make arrangements so that the two brothers could start a new life in Italy.
Simon Alhabib, Syrian refugee: “With the arrival of the terrorists we fled from one place to another. When ISIS invaded an area, we fled. In Qaryatayn we met Father Jacques Mourad who told us that a community in Italy could help us reach Europe.”
They have the dreams of any young men their age. They want to continue studying, learn Italian and have a life as normal as possible until peace comes to the Syria they remember with nostalgia.
Admon Alhabib, Syrian refugee: “We hope it arrives. It would be wonderful. I want Syria to be what it once was. That’s why I want to study here and go back to Syria to help rebuild my country.”
While they hope this wish comes true, the brothers look nostalgically over the photos of their life in that place where, in the past, no one persecuted a Christian for the mere fact of being one.