A Christian family from Syria have described their joy at being home for Christmas for the first time in eight years – and all thanks to the friends and benefactors of Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
The Ghattas family – Lina and Elias and their two sons – fled for their lives when most of their home city of Homs was destroyed by mortar attacks in 2012. For years, they lived in rented accommodation funded by ACN, the charity for persecuted Christians.
With peace and security returning, the Ghattas’ home was one of hundreds allocated for repairs – again with funds from ACN.
With doors and windows replaced and basic kitchen, bathroom and other necessities in place, the Ghattas are among many families at last able to get back home.
Speaking to ACN, Elias Ghattas said: “For me, returning home is like being reborn. I can’t even begin to describe the joy I am feeling.
“After so much suffering and uncertainty, I feel safe again… Christmas reminds me of the feeling of security that comes from being in a family.”
The family may be back home but they still lack so much – the small Christmas tree standing in the corner of their living room has been borrowed.
Other woes are there too – almost certainly, the Ghattas’ eldest son will not be joining them for Christmas – he was doing his two years’ military service in 2011 when the war broke out and eight years later, he is still not out of service.
Bashar, the younger son, lost an eye when a mortar bomb exploded next to their house and is still out of work.
The family puts their trust in God. Lina said: “We will go to church on Christmas Eve. There, we will sing Christmas songs and pray.
“Then we will return home and I will prepare the traditional Syrian meal… We will sit close to the oven and celebrate until late into the night.”
The family want to thank the friends and benefactors of ACN who have helped them get back home.
Under the Christmas tree in pride of place stands the gift presented to them by the charity – a small sand-coloured tablet of stone inscribed ‘Jesus is my rock’.
Elias said: “We have no words to express our thanks to ACN and all those who support the charity. They gave us hope and a new chance in this life.
“From the bottom of our hearts, we hope that God will strengthen and support them in their efforts to continue to help those most in need and sow hope.”