Since June 2012 a big family who fled their house in Al-Qusayr because of the war lives with us. In this dialogue Walid, a lawyer, will speak on behalf of his family. When the army entered the village Walid and his family courageously decided to stay with us.
Why did you leave Qusair?
We left Al Qusayr because of the danger. There was no longer a hospital there and our mother was very ill and in need of daily care. We found out after we left Al Qusayr that our house was completely ransacked.
What was situation in Al Qusayr?
The situation was becoming extremely dangerous. People no longer could go to work, the schools and the roads were closed, notably the road from Qusair to Homs. [Due to the severe presence of armed groups and extremists who expelled all the Christians. This caused a kind of “reign of terror” until the army liberated the village in 2013.]
How did you come to the Monastery?
A friend of mine lives in Qara, we asked if there was not a house we could flee to for a while and then go back to our home in Al Qusayr. Aamer my lawyer friend called Mother Agnes who opened for us the doors of the apartment of St Michael’s in the monastery’s new building. We felt immediately there was a sense of safety and peace in our souls here in the monastery.
What is life like in the Monastery?
I learned a lot here, beautiful things which I would not have learned on the outside. It’s a very important period of my life. I only knew a little about Christ, like the week of his Passion for example, which the Christians celebrated in Al Qusayr.
Christianity has as key words love and giving. I really like the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, theirs is the kingdom of Heaven... Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God” (Mt 5). These words entered in my heart. And I understood what love means more from being here. Sometimes if I am sad I go pray in the Church. I learned that prayer is one; there is no difference if I pray in the Mosque or the Church. For the last year and a half I spent a lot more inside the monastery. My life is here.
I remember better the way inside the monastery than I do of my own house and even the apartment where I live now (because I can walk through the dark here). I live in this place in my heart. There is something very strong spiritually here. I have never felt afraid here, even in danger.
It’s like the monastery speaks. I see the old wood and the ancient stones and I feel that there is a story speaking to me on the history of their existence. It’s not only the Father’s who is preaching but everything is speaking to me. When I look at an icon, I hear it giving me a message. It talks. Before I only saw it as a image. I see the icon of St James and how he gave up his whole life for Jesus. Now I see it as amazing, there is a depth of meaning.
What is your work like?
This is a picture of me working with what we call in Arabic the "Humanitarian Team of Love and Peace of Mother Agnes", (the Humanitarian Assistance Team) of the Monastery.
Today my work is a beautiful work and I’m really happy. But in the humanitarian aid related to the monastery. I feel a jealousy a pride for the monastery, more than for all other work. I like working humanitarian aids because I know they will relieve people, families in their difficulties.