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Nader works alongside colleagues in the Jesuit Refugee Service distribution team work to distribute goods to people displaced from the war at the Al Mukhales Centre in Homs. (JRS Syria)

(Rome) January 11, 2014 — A Syrian refugee forced from his city alongside his family not only lost his home but also his sense of purpose, the ability to provide for his family. 

Fortunately, 48-year-old Nader Ibrahim Bitar was able to regain a sense of belonging and fullfilment after becoming an active Jesuit Refugee Service team member at the Al Mukhales Centre in Homs.

Through his involvement with the centre, Nader is now able to provide for his family and give back to others in his new community. Nader, his wife and three children, however, still live in a war zone.

"We feel the importance of our presence, despite the fact that all the violence and sadness around us tempts us to get passports and leave," he said.

According to Nader, life in Aleppo has gradually worsened. Most adults in Aleppo face great difficulty getting to work due to the violence, as do their children trying to get to school.

Armed men entering into shops, pointing their rifles at the owners and shouting, "Go to your homes! We are now controlling this area!" has become the norm, says Nader.

Nader and his colleagues could not go to work due to violent clashes between extremist rebels and the government army. Although Nader's company continued paying its employees, it was forced to shut down after several months due to bankruptcy and lack of security.

Nader's faith has helped him to overcome the hardships. He believes "God gives everyone a role" and is not worried about dying.

"My wife and I put on a mask of courage so that our children don't see fear on our faces. Despite all of the difficulties we still live by the teachings of the Church," remarked the father of three.

In this time of tremendous anxiety, Nader feels fortunate to have found a sense of community at Al Mukhales, calling the experience beautiful because people there "embrace each other."

Before being forced to flee Aleppo, Nader had lost his job. So when he arrived in his in-laws home in August last year, he felt defeated.

Previously, as the main breadwinner of the family, he had a good job as an accountant at a company selling toiletry products in Aleppo.

The little money he had saved soon ended and he was forced to accept food from his local church, Al Mukhales.

"It's difficult to accept the idea of taking charity," he said.

But Nader's luck changed when he came across a priest he had met years earlier in Aleppo, Fr Ziad Hilal who was now a JRS Project Director in Homs. Fr Ziad told him to come for work at Al Mukhales Centre and soon after, Nader began working in the JRS team there. He had found a way of giving back to others and earning a living.

Nader has several tasks in the distribution team. From counting and buying basic goods, such as blankets and food, to distributing them to families, the job also entails traveling to dangerous areas within Homs where violent clashes are common.

"I love my job because I help displaced people like myself to get over their fear, but there is a lot of psychological pressure with the job. Everything is in chaos, and there is so much loss of bloodshed and senseless loss of life", he explained.

For Nader, his friends, family and colleagues at Al Mukhales "still live out the mission of the Church". Like this, he believes, all those helped in the centre "feel the importance of our presence."

"We live because we love. The Lord says 'do not be afraid' and this phrase goes to each one of us as survivors of wars throughout the Middle East," said Nader.

"I realize that each one of us has a duty and that because I received assistance and peace at the Al Mukhales Centre, I now want to continue giving back through my work and help to other people in need."

by Wael Salibi, JRS International

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