Westerners have the watch, Syrians have time.

EN - Friday, 15 November 2019

When you go on a trip or join an association, you always have few expectations. By joining SOS Chrétiens d'Orient, even for two months, you accept to dive radically into a culture, a way of life, a country, where nothing can remind you of your country of origin. But what an adventure!

sos chretiens orient volontaire maaloula recolte

A young Westerner does not go to Syria to "make the adventure", but to live it. We are not joining a humanitarian mission to restore Western stability in an Eastern land. In fact, this pseudo stability collapses at the exit of the plane: everything around us reminds us that, away from our roots, we are vulnerable, more than ever.

Damascus, Maaloula. It was perhaps during these first two days that really I understand what was at stake. Even if Damascus seems not exceptional at first sight, it still proudly hides, under a festive atmosphere, the current state of its country. There, nothing predicts war, except the many checkpoints. You really need to get out of Damascus, and head towards Maaloula to really see the impact of this war on the country.

Miles and miles of ruins. I would always remember that much too talkative silence in Samer's car, while crossing the Ghouta neighbordhood. The ruins of Syria will not stop surprising us. If the ruins of Maaloula replace those of Damascus, they are not comparable.

This village is located in a valley surrounded by two mountains, the Orthodox and the Catholic. It is one of the last villages where the language of Christ is still spoken. One of the first to fall because of Al Nosra, but the first to welcome Westerners with such warmth.

If we have come to give, we have also, and above all, come to learn.

sos chretiens orient syrie khabab volontairesLearning to receive. Whether in Damascus, Maaloula or Khabab, it is quite impressive to see that the people most affected by poverty are also those who are best able to give, to open up and to offer, to hope. A smile, a coffee or a testimony, everything they have, they give us. Syrians have a sense of sharing, or more precisely a sense of abandonment.

It is this famous "Inch'Allah", repeated continuously, and which, sometimes, has the gift of irritating us when it comes to carrying out an urgent project.

They often remind us that if we have the watch, they have time, because Life is not seen by them as an experience to be exploited, but as something to fully benefit from. Live in the present time! Complicated for a regular customer of the Parisian subway.

Learning to hope. Once again, we can only be struck by the hope that emerges from the blue ruined houses. Children running, laughter, songs that nothing can stop, except the traditional "Ma fi karaba". These children could be angry at us, at this consumerist and selfish society, and yet they play.

They are not sitting on the ground, cursing their fate, but they are standing with a balloon under their arm. Their sparkling eyes give us a beautiful lesson, to never give up, whatever the fight, whether we like it or not. From the top of their few inches, these little ones teach us the meaning of commitment.

Returning to France, to rediscover one's Western commitments is not easy. The gap is great, and yet, I believe that in the West as in the East the same battle is being played out, the defence of Life. And on either side, the work is great, so Yallah, and one day we'll all manage to do it “Inch Allah”!

Aliette, volunteer in Syria.

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