'I’ve Never Heard a Christian From Syria or Iraq Speak of Revenge, Rather of Forgiveness' (Interview)

There are some people who are incapable of remaining indifferent in the faces of the suffering of others, even more so in the face of one of the worst ethnic cleansings of our century: the persecution of the Christians of the Middle East.

Since they could not just stand by and watch, a group of French youth created SOS Chrétiens d’Orient in 2013, as an association to provide humanitarian aid on the ground.

Benjamin Blanchard, Founder, SOS CHRÉTIENS D’ORIENT: “At that time, the fall of 2013, France wanted to bomb Syria. At the same time there were many young people who went to wage “jihad” in Syria and Iraq by joining the Islamic State. We thought it was a shame that the image of France was on the one side formed by the bombs and on the other by the jihadists. There was also a Christian village, Maaloula, which had been taken over by Al Qaeda, and we thought of going to Syria to celebrate Christmas with those Christians who fled from Maaloula to Damascus. Thus our association was born.”

The Syrian Army retook Maaloula in April of 2014. Little by little many of the Christians returned there and the NGO has not abandoned them to their dire fate. Now this means helping them rebuild their city.

“I help with the rebuilding of houses. In these days we are rebuilding the house of Abu Tony.”

The majority of the members of the association are young volunteers like this one. SOS Chrétiens d’Orient runs four permanent missions in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan and three other specific projects in Egypt, Palestine and Pakistan. Experience has shown its members that even more than the much needed material help, for persecuted Christians there is something of far greater importance.

Benjamin Blanchard, Founder, SOS CHRÉTIENS D’ORIENT:  “They ask us not to forget them because sometimes they feel completely forgotten by Europe, by the West, and that is why it does so much good for them to be with people who live with them, who share their meals and their sufferings, and also their joys and their faith.”

The members seek, above all, to help the Christians in the Middle East remain in their own region, that of Christ himself. That is why they undertake jobs such as these….they clean the Islamic State graffiti from the walls of the city of Qaraqosh, a Christian city in Iraq which was liberated only three months ago. They try to bring a little Christmas spirit to a children’s hospital in Aleppo, Syria, or they work to rebuild a school.

They also work to help those forced to flee from their homelands as refugees. For example, they bring food to Christian refugee families in Lebanon.

They have helped some 10,000 families in the places where they operate, and in all this time, never have they heard any of the victims express a desire for revenge.

(Photo Credit: Screengrab Rome Reports in English)
(Photo Credit:  Screengrab Rome Reports in English)

Benjamin Blanchard, Founder, SOS CHRÉTIENS D’ORIENT:  “In three years I have never heard, or even felt, someone looking revenge themselves. It is so incredible and very amazing to us. They have such inner strength and the support of their faith. Their are very few among them who have abandoned Christianity and converted. 

I have never known anyone to harbor a spirit of vengeance. On the contrary, they speak of forgiveness, of reconciliation, of national unity… and this is very impressive.”

With more than 800 volunteers providing help in some 60 locations, over the past three years this NGO has sought to demonstrate with deeds that the destiny of persecuted Christians in the Middle East is not foreign to them.

#StandTogether is a digital platform, inclusive and ecumenical, created to give voice to Christians who are discriminated or persecuted, especially in the Middle East. It also intends to underline the vital importance of religious freedom.

Visit #StandTogether website 



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