Gentle young Syrian, abandoned: Help him get to Canada
$4,666 raised
26% of $18k goal
37 contributors
39 Weeks running

Our friend Basel is a gentle young Syrian man living in exile in Lebanon. Self taught in English, he had to leave Syria after being kidnapped and tortured  – swept up in the civil war that would soon claim his mother’s life.

In his early twenties, Basel found his faith in the church. As a Christian convert he is largely shunned, and his life is threatened, by the wider Lebanese society and his own people. He is so underpaid he sleeps under the staircase of a store. He needs our help.

Childhood

Basel grew up in a village in Syria, one of nine children.

“We had a big family, with five sisters and four brothers and we enjoyed a good and peaceful life.”

As a child, he struggled learning to read and write and his brother made fun of him, telling him he would be ignorant for the rest of his life if he didn’t commit to his education. This spurred Basel on to apply himself to his schoolwork. He discovered a love for the English language – including reading and translation.

He pursued his studies under the darkening clouds of war. By 2011, the street protests against the government had turned into civil conflict as the Syrian army started to target the Free Army with bombs and shells.

The War

Basel moved to Damascus to study at university. He lived there with his uncle. Life in Damascus was also dangerous. Mortar shells fell on streets, houses – nowhere was safe. He lived in a constant state of fear.

The fear grew acute each time he passed a Syrian army checkpoint. Every Syrian citizen was required to carry their identification with them. And Basel’s ID card attested to the fact that he was from a city considered to be against the regime.

This fact alone dramatically increased his chances of being arrested and detained. He was keenly aware that tens of thousands of Syrian men have disappeared and perished in prisons. He didn’t want to become one of them.

Basel became interested in the Christian faith, but he never attended church because he was afraid of how his family would react. He knew his parents – who had always forced him to pray at the mosque – would consider him an apostate who had committed the unpardonable sin of converting to Christianity, a sin that many of the people in his community consider to be punishable by death.

The Kidnapping

A few years later, trouble struck. A group of uniformed men with ties to the Syrian regime forced their way into his home and kidnapped Basel. They took him to a security centre in a suburb of Damascus. For a week he was left hungry and alone in a dark room.

“They withheld food and water and interrogated and tortured me – kicking, and punching my face. I was very afraid they would kill me.”

Only when his parents agreed to pay a ransom was he set free. He left detention in a very bad physical and psychological state – angry about what happened and fearful about what the future might hold.

The danger increased daily as bombings became more common and living in Damascus became more precarious. Basel was increasingly drawn to Christianity but ongoing persecution of Christians in Syria made it even more difficult to express this. He felt forced to make the painful decision to leave Syria and live in Lebanon.

Leaving Syria

He took a taxi to the border between Syria and Lebanon – the whole time terrified of being stopped and arrested.

Once safely across the border, Basel found his cousin and stayed with him in a refugee camp where most of the residents were Palestinian Christians. Basel survived by doing any work he could find, including cleaning and construction.

 

Changes of Fortune

Basel later received devastating news from home. The war had reached his home town and their family home had been destroyed in heavy shelling. His mother – an innocent victim of that conflict – lost her life.

Basel worked briefly as a manager of a store, but when police discovered he was Syrian, he was fired. He returned to the city south of Beirut.

Life Today

Today Basel lives in another town. It is illegal for Syrians to work in Lebanon, and he takes whatever job he can find. Currently that means cleaning houses, which earns him about $150 to $200 each month. He lives in a store where he pays $100 a month in rent to live under the stairs. The store is so cold, he is always getting sick. His monthly food bill takes the rest of his earnings.

Although he left Syria looking for a better life, a better life has not come about for Basel. Like most Syrian refugees, he has felt the bitter sting of racism in Lebanon due to his nationality. There is no possibility of gaining an education, a livelihood, a community or citizenship.

A continuing source of comfort has been his Christian faith, and he attends church.

“I still live in a state of loneliness and alienation, both as a Christian and as a Syrian refugee living in a country that is hostile to Syrians.”

What’s next?

Basel dreams of becoming a doctor. He dreams of completing his education and being able to attend church services without worrying about his safety.

But these dreams are on indefinite hold until he can find his way to Canada – a country he has loved since he was a child.

You can help make this dream a reality.

Basel cannot be sponsored by a Group of 5 and needs a Sponsorship Agreement Holder. If you know of a church or SAH that could sponsor Basel – or if you’re just interested in helping bring him to Canada – please contact his Toronto friends, volunteers Ruth Bromstein or Stephen Watt at guidingrefugeeshome@gmail.com.

Reach out and discover how wonderful it is to privately sponsor a good person to start a new life – with your help – in Canada!

 

 Northern Lights Canada

STRONGER TOGETHER: Together we’re building a network of volunteers and humanitarians to find hope and opportunities for displaced people worldwide. Canada is a global leader in responding to humanitarian crises and welcoming refugees. At Northern Lights Canada, we support this effort to build bridges – rather than walls – with the wider world. Our own work in private sponsorship, settlement, and advocacy has put us into touch with the most dynamic and inspiring individuals on the planet, people who are making a difference in countless ways, large and small. We invite you to join us in this transformational journey to bring light to darkness. Northern Lights Canada stands with refugees – and their friends and supporters – as they navigate the process of immigration and resettlement. We provide guidance, share resources and build on our collective strengths as we work alongside people who have been forced to flee their homes, celebrating as they begin new lives and make the most of their boundless potential. 

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