On Wednesday, November 13, I leave the famous little village of Maaloula and head for Damascus. Tomorrow, I will be back in my country. The setting sun colors the sky salmon pink and the fresh air reminds the final touches of a summer that seems to be dragging on forever.
I look upon these rocky, arid and forbidding deserts. This is the last time I can imbue my memory with these sweet memories.
As I return to France in a few hours, a deaf melancholy rises in me. It has already been 13 months since I arrived in this Levantine country. My Syrian experience ends but my mission continues: I now have to testify to what I have seen, what I have done and what I have experienced.
I was told that I was crazy to go there, that it was unconsciousness and that I was going to lose a year of my life... I was promised the apocalypse, a flood of bombs and permanent insecurity...
The reality is quite different and much more complex than what I could summarize in these few lines.
What I saw in Syria is the opposite of what I have heard in the media.
Syria has been experiencing a war of international dimensions on its own soil for almost 9 years now. More than 50% of the population has had to move or take refuge. More than 350,000 people have died since the beginning of the conflict.
And yet, the road infrastructures I have used, the hospitals I have been in (!), police security, public services, all this shows the power of a developed country.
Of course, the economic blockade imposed by the West, led by the United States, is merciless for the population suffering from the lack of gas, gasoline and fuel oil. Winter is coming and the big concern of all these friends I leave behind is how they will manage to spend the winter with the 100 litres of fuel oil available per household....
In April 2019, energy restrictions halted the entire region: the highway linking Damascus to Aleppo was empty of vehicles, Maaloula's food stores were running out and ploughing was two months late because farmers could not run their agricultural machines.
The Syrian population suffers from the deadly unconsciousness of technocrats who want to destroy this part of the world, but today they are fighting to live.
What can we do about this violence? Our action cannot influence the course of events, but it can and must help the populations.
During these 13 months, I had the great opportunity to work and act throughout the country: Damascus and Aleppo, Homs and Hama, Tartus and Lattakia, Maalula and Khabab, Mhardeh and Squelbieh, Palmyra and the Krak of the Knights, Qara and Deir Azzer, Kessab and Deir Safra are all places that have become familiar to me.
As a volunteer of "SOS Chrétiens d'Orient", I am not a politician who would come to practice on the ground, I am not a member of a private militia who would take sides with this or that organization, I am a simple humanitarian worker who participates in the reconstruction of houses, who brings food packages and blankets to poor people, who gives French lessons to orphans or visits the elderly in retirement homes.
Bashar, a family father in Maaloula, keeps saying thank you. As the association did not help him directly, I asked him why he thanked me. Simply, he answered me, his eyes shining with joy: "Thank you for being here".
As for Father Malek, priest of the Chaldean parish of Damascus, he told me one day:
“The best work of SOS Chrétiens d’Orient is to be with us, by our side. This is the true face of France.”
Being present at their side, to accompany them, to participate in happy events such as weddings, as well as unfortunate events such as funerals, that is how I was able to help the Syrians. To be generous in presence and spirit at their side, to be there with them, to simply give yourself.
My experience in Syria was an incredible adventure, where the charity and hope of the people were two permanent markers that I will never forget.
At every moment, I was struck by the kind welcome and the Oriental generosity. Despite the precarious conditions due to the war, these ancestral traditions are respected and maintained.
Everywhere we go, we were offered an Arabic coffee whose pronounced taste of cardamom dilates the taste buds with a very special flavour. Even the humblest home welcomes the host with incredible warmth.
These moments are an opportunity for us to better know the people of the East and especially Christians.
Finally, I was deeply marked by the impregnable hope of the Syrians. The present is dark and the horizon seems blocked. The massive exodus of young people gives cause for concern because the emigration of Christian populations, which responds to the lying sirens of a better Western world, will unconditionally lead to the geopolitical destabilization of the entire Middle East.
That is why those who want to stay are rebuilding the country at an impressive speed: the Ghouta I discovered when I arrived is very different from the Ghouta I am leaving today.
In an interview with Mr. Simon, head of the National Defence of Mhardeh, he told me:
"We stay, we don't run away. We stay because it is our land, the land of our fathers, the land of our grandfathers. And we will never abandon this land."
These Christians are at home and they do not understand why they should leave. They became aware that after the pains of the Passion, there will be the glory of the Resurrection. So, tirelessly, they rebuild their village, their city, their country.
Yes, Syria is a part of the world that some people wanted to destroy militarily, politically, economically and on the media but which, today, remains a part of the world more alive than ever.
Yes, Syria is a part of the world that does not want laws and directives imposed upon them by technocrats, a part of the world that wants to take back its destiny in hand to relive and ensure a dignified life for its children.
Yes, Syria is a part of the world plunged into apocalyptic chaos but wants to emerge from its despair by being carried by the hope of a better future.
They are called Ramez, Samer, Fimy, Waël, Lawandios, Abouna Toufik and Abouna Malek, Sister Lydia, Sister Nouhade and Sister Fida, Mr Simon and his wife Reem, Salem, Fahed, Rosy, Talal, Mariana, Joseph, Abu Tamam and Om Tamam, Estaz Khalil, Tamam, Athar, Muhammed, Nabil, Rita, Fady, Souher, Georges, Jacques, Mike, ...
They have completely different characters, different ages and different beliefs; nevertheless, they have only one goal in mind: to work together to rebuild their country.
Keulkon 3l rassi laano ana armelet ktir m3kon : bala entou, l Souria mukhtalif. Shouhran beaucoup mechan keulou w keul chi. Habibati, mishteulkon ktir bes insh'Allah ra7 nshoufna badden. Allah m3kon!
Baudouin, volunteer in Syria.
SOS Chrétiens d’Orient sends volunteers throughout the year. Like Baudouin, come and live an unforgettable experience in Syria. Don't ask yourself any questions. The only limits are in your mind.