World Youth Day 2016--Testimony from Syria

God, where are you? Why have you forsaken us? Do you even exist? Why won't you have mercy on us?

By Rand Mittri

Hello.  I am 26 years old, and I am a graduate of the College of Natural Science in Syria.  I am currently working on a Master’s degree at the University of Aleppo, also in Syria.  I am with the Salesian Don Bosco Center in Aleppo.  As you may know, our city has been destroyed, ruined, and broken.  The meaning in our lives has been canceled.  We are the forgotten city.

Every day we live lives that are surrounded by death. Like you, we close our doors behind us as each morning as we leave for work or school.  It is in that moment that we are gripped by fear that we will not return to find our homes and our families as we left them.  Perhaps we will be killed that day.  Or perhaps our families will.  It is a hard and painful feeling to know that you are surrounded by death and killing, and there is no way to escape; no one to help. 

God, where are you?  Why have you forsaken us?  Do you even exist?  Why won’t you have mercy on us?  Are you not the God of love?  We spend a few minutes each day asking these questions.  I don’t have an answer.

Pilgrims at World Youth Day 2016.jpg

In spite of all of this pain, my life and the life of my friends at church have continued to be lives of service and joyful giving to the children and youth of our city.  We follow the footsteps of Don Bosco, who increased his joy two fold in response to increasing pain.  We see the presence of God in a child who helps to fetch water.  We see God in those who work to rescue others in danger.  We see God in parents who do not give up until they are able to bring food to their children.

Through my meager life experience, I have learned that my faith in Christ supersedes the circumstances of life.  This truth is not conditioned on living a life of peace that is free of hardship.  More and more, I believe that God exists despite all of our pain.  I believe that sometimes through our pain, He teaches us the true meaning of love.  My faith in Christ is the reason for my joy and hope.  No one will ever be able to steal this true joy from me. 

In the end, I ask the Resurrected Lord to grant me, everyone living in Syria, and people around the world the grace to show a touch of mercy and plant joy in the hearts of every wounded, sad, and abandoned person.  This is the message for every Christian on the face of the earth.

Rand Mittri spoke before the Pope and to his fellow pilgrims as part of the papal vigil Mass July 30, 2016. He was one of more than 3,500 pilgrims who were able to attend World Youth Day 2016 in Kracow, Poland, thanks to support from Aid to the Church in Need.

Pilgrims at World Youth Day 2016; ACN photo

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