The ongoing violent conflict in Syria has caused the death of over 100, 000 Syrians and displaced millions more. Jesuit Missions have been supporting JRS MENA (Jesuit Refugee Service Middle East and North Africa) help refugees to build new lives and look to the future with hope.
Fr Cedric Prakash SJ, a Jesuit Priest living in Lebanon, shares with us a remarkable story about a Syrian refugee who has written a book about her journey aimed at children.
This courageous woman has braved all odds. Over the years, Randa has seen and experienced hunger and deprivation, bombardments and suffering, destruction and death. Randa however, is not one to be defeated. She has an indomitable spirit. Today, this Syrian refugee, from her new home in Baalbek, Lebanon, wants the children of the world to hear her story. Her story written in Arabic is a poignant one illustrated with her own paintings. At her book launch at the JRS Social Education Centre in Baalbek a few months ago, Randa was all smiles, “today is the happiest day of my life”, she exclaimed.
The book launch was part of a ‘Graduation Ceremony’ where 53 women were awarded certificates for successfully completing a course conducted by the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), in English, Computer Literacy or in Make-up. Most of the ‘graduates’ were Syrian refugees, though there were also some Lebanese ladies, a significant intervention to promote a more inclusive society. Some of the graduates spoke about the impact the course has had on their lives, the belonging they have experienced in the JRS Centre and the overall transformative experience, which they have gone through.
On that day however, Randa Maghribi was the centre of attention. She shared with the audience the compelling reasons that prompted her to write her story. “Arragheef Alyabes” (meaning “The Dry Bread”), although directed at children, is the story of the suffering and deprivation that she and her family have gone through and that which many others in Syria are also going through. Randa wanted children to be aware about the pangs of hunger, of what it means to be a displaced person desperately fleeing to a place of safety, but often with nowhere to go. She hopes that her story will inspire many children; to help them realise that food is a basic right for all, to help them care for and to share with others and to welcome and to accept a stranger. This ‘children’s story’ has a very powerful message for adults too, it is a story that needs to be read by all!
“For a hungry person, even ‘dry bread’ means survival and hope and it can give new life”.
Randa believes having something to eat is a basic right for every human being and war deprives people of this right.
Randa is also an accomplished artist. She has illustrated her story with more than a dozen paintings in vibrant colours. The pictures vividly capture the mood and the flow of her story.
Randa has been associated with JRS for almost two years. She is very grateful for the support and sense of community that JRS has given her. She is happy because she has been able to successfully complete both the Computer and English courses. Life has been one long and difficult journey from her beautiful Al – Zabadani in Syria.
Nada El Myr, the Project Director of JRS Baalbek echoes the sentiments of many:
“Randa symbolizes, for all of us, strength and hope. A great example of a woman who achieves her goals, despite much difficulty and suffering. Someone who is helping make this world a better place.”
Randa’s story is a remarkable one and she has found a way to tell it in a very unique way. Her story needs to be listened to and it needs to be shared.
Jesuit Missions is supporting JRS with its work in Chad, South Sudan and the Middle East. Here in the UK, JRS UK accompany refugees living in the UK. JRS UK work to improve refugee’s quality of life by lobbying and raising awareness of the hardships they face as asylum seekers in the UK, working towards the dignity of refugees by providing the opportunity for proper communication through their day centre and improving conditions for those who find themselves in the UK.
Posted on 19th December 2017