ANTOINE HADDAD, 19, a member of the Armenian Catholic Church, grew up at the height of the Syrian civil war, amidst chaos and violence. The first bombings of Aleppo destroyed parts of his home. He gives a glimpse of his suffering in this interview with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN): “I was in school, and all of a sudden, the building shook, and the glass broke, and I started to scream. I did not understand what was happening. We could only pray,” he said.
With this explosion, Antoine’s life changed for the worse, and his school temporarily closed. “The school reopened, but these painful memories remained in every corner.”
One day, on his way home from school, Antoine learned that there was an armed group in his neighborhood: “We could not move. Death came very close, and it is one of the worst things a human being can experience. But when the gunmen entered the buildings, we were able to escape the house.” Antoine’s family fled to a relative’s home, but they were forced to return as a result of financial difficulty, and the armed group remained a threat.
“One Sunday, I felt that I had to go to Mass. I needed to pray in the church because I was spiritually tired. During Mass, my phone rang several times. It was my mother. She told me not to come home because shells were coming down on the neighborhood. But I couldn’t stay away from my family, so I went back to the house. I saw destruction everywhere. My father and brother were not home; they were helping a young man who’d been wounded by a shell. I was terrified. I cannot describe the pain I experienced then.”
“Another day, I was preparing for an exam, and I went to the store to buy pens. I heard a very loud voice on the way back, and I ran to the house to see what had happened. It was completely destroyed, though a neighbor told me that my family was safe.” “When I was young, my relationship with God was good, but since then, I’ve struggled at times. I always ask, ‘Why, Lord, why all this pain?’”
Antoine has persisted in his faith, however, and currently serves his local Church through teaching catechism and helping with other educational programs run by the Church. “I love my country for one good reason: the special social life and fraternal spirit that exist in the Church. But so many are leaving Syria, because there is no future here. I dream of becoming an actor—so I can share humanitarian messages—and of eventually living peacefully in a country that has suffered so much. The pain, poverty, and hunger we’ve endured are enough.”
Since the beginning of the conflict in Syria in March 2011 through the end 2018, ACN has allocated more than $33M for 738 projects, some 80 percent were in the form of emergency aid, among them some 308 programs to provide basic necessities to Christian families who have not left the country.