Photo provided by Hala Al Hamidia

The 11 days of peace collection of stories features women who are or have been partners of MCC at some point, or who are known to MCC in some way. Most of these women work at a grassroots level, whereas some have attained leadership roles in their specific contexts. Some of these women would identify themselves as peacebuilders while others would say that they are only going about their daily lives. While each story focuses on an individual woman, it is important to remember that these individuals are members of larger networks of women working for peace.

Hala Al Hamida is 26 years old. She lives in Damascus, Syria where she works for the national relief and development committee of the Syrian Orthodox Church, which MCC partners with to provide assistance to people in serious need. Al Hamidia’s job is to write funding proposals to organizations like MCC and to distribute cash vouchers to people who need help paying rent or buying medicine. She also organizes programs for children and youth.

Syria has experienced war for five years. Over 270,000 people have been killed, 6.8 million have been internally displaced, and 4.2 million have fled the country. Some 13.5 million are in need of ongoing humanitarian assistance.

Al Hamidia used to enjoying walking in the neighbourhood of the Syrian Orthodox Church; now she phones ahead each morning to make sure that there have been no bombings or signs of unrest along the way. One day, while she was at work, 27 mortars exploded very near the church. Several times she has been nearly hit by a mortar herself. The threat of rocket attack is always present.

Al Hamidia has had the opportunity to attend the Summer Peacebuilding Institute at Eastern Mennonite University and gain training in restorative justice, trauma healing and peacebuilding. Subsequently, she has helped to organize dialogue groups for people from different denominations, has worked with youth to prevent them from being drawn into armed militias, and has planned activities that include Christian and Muslim children. She says, “Being a peacebuilder in Syria for me means helping other people regardless of their beliefs or their background.”

Many of Al Hamidia’s friends have left Syria, but she and her family choose to stay, despite the dangers and incredible difficulties. She says, “Being a peacemaker in a war area is very challenging as many of my generation think that the voices of weapons are louder than other voices, but I believe that this is not true and that the world can live in peace.”

MCC has gathered stories of Women Peacebuilders as part of our annual Peace Sunday Packet. The complete 2016 Peace Sunday Packet can be viewed here.