Marmarita is a village in north-western Syria located in a region close to the border with Lebanon known as the Valley of the Christians.
The majority of the people living in this part of Syria are Greek Orthodox, with a Melkite Greek Catholic minority. Catholics and Orthodox in the area get on well as they do in the rest of Syria. The Valley of the Christians is, in fact, the only Christian-majority region in Syria.
The Valley of the Christians was less directly affected by the civil war than the rest of Syria. Because of this, the valley became a safe haven for Christians from other parts of Syria, such as Homs City and elsewhere, who fled from bombing and the terror of Islamist extremists.
Christians have been disproportionately impacted by the Syrian Civil War, being specifically targeted by Islamists, with higher proportions of Syrian Christians being forced to flee their homes than the rest of the Syrian population.
This was the case for Nihad Almansour, her husband Shadi, and their children. Nihad told us about their lives before the war: “We used to own a house with a big farm in our village. We had walnut and olive trees and we used to sell the harvest. Shadi was a lumberjack. We also used to own a small grocery shop.”
Then the war reached Nihad and her family. The family lost everything to the war. Nihad spoke of the terror the family faced: “The bombs used to fall in the heart of the village, devastating schools and houses. People were dying because of the bombs. So we were forced to escape to save ourselves and our children. Shadi’s relative was slaughtered and his body was dropped outside of the village.”
Nihad and her family joined countless other Christian IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) in the safety of the Valley of the Christians. Nihad and Shadi ended up in Marmarita in the valley. Although safe from bombs and Islamists, Nihad’s family and others do struggle to make ends meet and raise their children. Rent can be particularly challenging for families with next to no income.
The Melike St. Peter’s Centre, run by Fr. Walid Iskandafy, has stepped forward to help the displaced families by covering the cost of rent, food, fuel, and medical treatment. Nine young people working at the centre, mostly also displaced from other parts of Syria, visit and help families in need. Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has supported the centre’s work since 2012.
Nihad and her family turned to St. Peter’s for help: “We sought the help of the Church and explained our situation, that we couldn’t afford to pay the rent or buy any food; that we were struggling because of the lack of income. Volunteers came with food aid packages. They supported us with paying the rent for years.”
Although the centre initially helped displaced families, with the rising cost of living and the economic instability in Syria, the centre has also started to help local families who are also struggling to make ends meet. In fact, things are worse economically than they were during the worst periods of the war. The support provided by ACN allows the centre to support around 350 families in need.
Nihad has said that her Faith has only strengthened during the current difficulties. She wished to pass her thanks to ACN’s benefactors and asked for continued support:“I’d like to thank and show my gratitude to the benefactors who donated to the Church which helps us and many other families in Syria who are desperately in need. From the bottom of my heart I thank you and ask you to keep on supporting us and continue sending aid because, honestly, we are in much more need now, than ever before. More and more families in Syria need help because of the economic consequences of the war. Thank you again from the bottom of my heart.”
Please donate to our Christmas Appeal if you want to help support families like Nihad’s. https://www.acnireland.org/christmas-appeal-2022