Yousef left his country and its violence to seek a better life for his family

How many of us have the opportunity to get close to and be personal with a refugee family? Within the wide circle of the Society of Jesus, we all know about the JRS (Jesuit Refugee Service), and we support its mission. But awareness of the refugee situation becomes more real for us when we personally know people who have had to leave everything in their search for a better future.

In preparing the renewed website of the Society of Jesus, our webmaster needed help. An organization suggested that he contract Yousef Saghir, a Syrian Christian from Aleppo, a city that was more than 80% destroyed by the war. We met Yousef at his home, with his wife Georgina, his two sons (Antony 9 and George 5) and his mother. Let him tell his story.

It had become more and more difficult to live in Aleppo, to move around safely. After three years living in the midst of war, we chose to flee to Lebanon. Antony was born in Aleppo, and my wife was pregnant when we fled to Lebanon; that is where George was born. At that time it was easy to enter Lebanon; the identity card was enough. I proposed to my mother to come with us because my father had died in 2007.


Another reason for leaving my country was that our small-lamp factory, which my two brothers and I, together with my father, had built, was bombed and destroyed twice when the ISIS took control of the city and its surroundings. We produced mainly bedside lamps. I did the design on the computer. We had a large number of models but especially lamps in the form of statues. We no longer had the means to rebuild in the context of the war, so we were reduced to living on charity; JRS helped us at the time. We also knew Jesuits like Fr. Sami Hallak, who is well known for the help he and the Jesuits gave to families in need in Aleppo.

We went into exile in Lebanon with almost nothing. I was able to work in San Antonio monastery, where a priest put me in touch with the “Humanitarian Corridor” project of the Sant’Egidio community in Rome. There was still a slot for a family, and that allowed us to come to Italy.

But Italy is not an easy country for employment. We have been here for four years and I have not been able to find a permanent job. I only get short contracts. My wife, who is an economist but who actually taught mathematics in Syria, has not been able to get a job either. So in 2019 I did a programming course with an organization called “Code your Future”. I finished in January of this year. One of the facilitators, who is connected with Caritas, put me in touch with your webmaster, Stefano Maero. We had a Skype meeting, and a few days later he told me I had the contract.


It involved transferring and coding large amounts of content from the two websites of the Curia of the Society of Jesus into a single, more modern site. I took care of transferring a great number of news articles and also the file of the saints and the blesseds of the Society. One of the challenges I faced, with which Stefano helped me a lot, was the updating of the file of saints. Sometimes data was missing and I had to complete the file by searching on the internet. I did not know that there were so many Jesuit saints!

Another thing that struck me when I read so many articles on the Jesuits was the work of Father General. He does not have an easy life: he visits his companions all over the world, as well as projects that help people in need. He supports the commitment of Jesuits everywhere and this is a great challenge.

Our visit to the Saghir family was a moment of joy, but Yousef now is very concerned about finding a new home - the one they are renting has been sold and they have to leave. Many landlords will not rent to persons without a stable job. Perhaps a reader of this article will have an idea about how to help this family, in terms of either employment or housing...

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Posted by Communications Office - Editor in Curia Generalizia
Communications Office
The Communications Office of the General Curia publishes news of international scope on the central government of the Society of Jesus and on the commitments of the Jesuits and their partners. It also handles media relations.

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