Today she is our translator. To house after tiny house she leads us, helping us understand the grim stories of displacement of families from across Syria sheltered by strangers who long for their country to return to peace. Her name is Rahaf Abdo.
When violence broke out in Syria, Rahaf, a young Muslim woman, was a lecturer in the engineering department of her local university. In 2012, as the crisis in her country deepened, she left her post to work full-time for the Islamic Charity of Deir Attieh, which MCC supports. Her work is stressful, but in many ways simple. She is responsible for the food boxes and cash supplements that need to find their way from MCC to thousands of displaced families.
As I prayed my Tuesday evening prayer, I was filled with a simple gratitude that MCC can be present in Syria.
Over the last seven years, Rahaf has also developed some expertise in trauma healing. As we talk over lunch in the home of a farmer deeply involved in welcoming displaced families, she tells me how upsetting it is that “people have become accustomed to the terrible.”
“People who used to run frightened at a single bullet are now living with ongoing and horrific violence. It has become normal for them, and that is going to make healing so complicated.” She tells story after story of children who have been surrounded by war. She worries about the lifelong scars these traumas may have caused.
A few days later, our MCC delegation back in Damascus, we felt windows rattle and doors slam while shells and aerial bombing shook the city and its suburbs. In the morning there would be reports of hundreds of deaths in the suburb of eastern Ghouta, and of victims of shelling in Damascus itself. Rahaf would hear these reports, too, and would also be thinking of the thousands more traumatized by a night of explosions and destruction.
I had never been this close to war. I was still not near enough to smell and taste the trauma that Rahaf will spend the next years helping children resolve. As I prayed my Tuesday evening prayer, I was filled with a simple gratitude that MCC can be present in Syria.
God grant me the strength to cry for justice,
To be patient for peace,
To be angry for love.
MCC photo/Mark Epp
In my prayer, I was also deeply grateful for Rahaf. Because of partners like her, even though the crisis continues, MCC can be in Syria. We can provide small signs of hope for the displaced and traumatized because Rahaf chooses to welcome us as Christian sisters and brothers sharing God’s love and compassion.