AmericanCatholic.org
 
Skip Navigation Links
Home
Catholic News
Saints
Seasonal
Special Reports
Movies
Shopping
Donate
Share:
Facebook
Twitter
Google Plus
LinkedIn
Email
RSS Feeds
Jennifer Scroggins tells the story of an Iraqi refugee family in Lebanon.

Special Features
Day 6: Sin El Fil, Lebanon

Fadi, Mark and Donia Habou with their mother.(photo by Jennifer Scroggins)
In his 15 short years, Fadi Habou has lived a story almost too tragic to believe. He was kidnapped off a street in Baghdad at age 9 and ultimately set free in exchange for the life of his father.

His family, part of the diminishing Christian minority in Iraq, fled to the north of their country for four years before moving to Lebanon, where Fadi now works up to 11 hours a day wrapping chocolates. The $300 a month he earns pays for his family’s rent in a rundown neighborhood north of Beirut.

Fadi doesn’t go to school, doesn’t have friends. In the eyes of the Lebanese government, he is illegal. In the eyes of the United Nations, he is a “displaced person.” In his own eyes, he is a lost boy.

“Before, I used to be very good at school, and I had lots of friends,” Fadi says, speaking Arabic through an interpreter. “My only hope is to return to school. … I have no sense of humor now, no friends.”

Fadi Habou, 15. (photo by Jennifer Scroggins)
The story of Fadi and his family is truly horrific. Yet such atrocities are becoming increasingly common among Iraqi Christians, who are targeted by Muslim extremists in their home country.

As the violence escalates, Christians are seeking refuge outside Iraq’s borders. Although they might find relative peace and some degree of physical security away from home, they also find estrangement, poverty and a lack of civil rights as aliens in a land where they are trapped between religious and geopolitical forces.

Fadi lives with his mother, Amal Toma; sister Donia, 13; and brother Mark, 6, in a sparsely furnished apartment in a Shia-owned building. People on the streets speak Syriac. As young Mark watches Japanese cartoons, the evening call to prayer can be heard emanating from a mosque directly across the street.

Fadi's mother, Amal Toma. (photo by Jennifer Scroggins)
If ever a family were caught in a cultural clash, Amal Toma and her children are the perfect, painful example. Amal, whose name means “hope” in Arabic, can only assume her husband of 22 years, Fouad Habou, is dead.

No one in the family knows who the kidnappers were – or what religion they practiced, if any – but the sense is the family was targeted simply for being Chaldean Christians.

In 2005, Fadi was taken, and the family received a note with a phone number to call. Over the phone, the kidnappers demanded $20,000 in 24 hours or else they would “cut (Fadi) into pieces and put him in a bag on the front door.”

Amal and Fouad, a taxi driver, approached local churches and friends for help and managed to collect $5,000. They contacted the kidnappers and negotiated a meeting spot, and Fouad made the journey to rescue his elder son. He never returned.

Fadi remembers being told by his captors that his father had paid. He then was dropped off in an unfamiliar place, where he was scared and didn’t know the way home. Ultimately, he encountered an acquaintance who took him to Amal. But Fadi never again would see his father. The kidnappers contacted Amal again and told her she had 24 more hours to raise $20,000 for her husband’s return. Knowing the task was impossible, she told police of her situation. Shortly thereafter, kidnappers told her, “Consider yourself a widow; your husband is dead now.”

After two months of continued threats, Amal took her family north, leaving behind Baghdad for good. After four years in the north, she relocated again to Lebanon. Having secured tourist visas, she brought her children to Beirut, where she thought she’d find greater job opportunities and more money than in Syria or Turkey. Her aspirations, though, have been thwarted at seemingly every turn.

Donia Habou, 13. (photo by Jennifer Scroggins)
Amal suffers from rheumatism, which prevents her from working. Her son Mark suffers from epilepsy, which prevents him from attending school. Donia works alongside Fadi and says her only dream is to return to school someday. The $300 a month she earns pays for the family’s food and other needs.

Donia and Fadi say their co-workers are largely Iraqis, under 18 years old. Their hours are 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with a 15-minute lunch break, though Donia says the children often stay until 6:30.

When they come home, they enter a living room furnished with two old, hard sofas, a TV resting atop a cabinet, and two yellow plastic chairs. A fan sits in one corner of the room, helping to circulate the stagnant air.

A shrine to Mary in the living room. (photo by Jennifer Scroggins)
The walls are virtually barren, but for two items. Above the TV is the wedding photo of Amal’s oldest daughter, who now lives in Australia with her husband, an Iraqi with Australian citizenship.

The family has applied for refugee status with the United Nations in the hope of being able to move Down Under, a common location for Middle Eastern émigrés. After seven months, however, there has been no word on their paperwork.

Yet somehow, hope remains. Amal says her greatest dream is for every one of her children to have equal rights. As she speaks, she sits across from her apartment’s only other decoration, a picture of the Virgin Mary, with a candle and ribbon dangling from the image.

Her Christianity is what sustains Amal, even through unspeakable adversity. “I still have a lot of faith,” she says. “I am a strong believer, so I have hope.”

Click here for more daily reports from Lebanon.


View ACO in Lebanon in a larger map




Paid Advertisement
Ads contrary to Catholic teachings should be reported to our webmaster. Include ad link.


John Henry Newman: John Henry Newman, the 19th-century's most important English-speaking Roman Catholic theologian, spent the first half of his life as an Anglican and the second half as a Roman Catholic. He was a priest, popular preacher, writer, and eminent theologian in both Churches. <br /><br />Born in London, England, he studied at Oxford's Trinity College, was a tutor at Oriel College and for 17 years was vicar of the university church, St. Mary the Virgin. He eventually published eight volumes of <i>Parochial and Plain Sermons</i> as well as two novels. His poem, "Dream of Gerontius," was set to music by Sir Edward Elgar.<br /> <br />After 1833, Newman was a prominent member of the Oxford Movement, which emphasized the Church's debt to the Church Fathers and challenged any tendency to consider truth as completely subjective.<br /> <br />Historical research made Newman suspect that the Roman Catholic Church was in closest continuity with the Church that Jesus established. In 1845, he was received into full communion as a Catholic. Two years later he was ordained a Catholic priest in Rome and joined the Congregation of the Oratory, founded three centuries earlier by St. Philip Neri. Returning to England, Newman founded Oratory houses in Birmingham and London and for seven years served as rector of the Catholic University of Ireland. <br /><br />Before Newman, Catholic theology tended to ignore history, preferring instead to draw deductions from first principles—much as plane geometry does. After Newman, the lived experience of believers was recognized as a key part of theological reflection.<br /> <br />Newman eventually wrote 40 books and 21,000 letters that survive. Most famous are his book-length <i>Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine</i>, <i>On Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine</i>, <i>Apologia Pro Vita Sua</i> (his spiritual autobiography up to 1864) and <i>Essay on the Grammar of Assent</i>. He accepted Vatican I's teaching on papal infallibility while noting its limits, which many people who favored that definition were reluctant to do.<br /><br />When Newman was named a cardinal in 1879, he took as his motto <i>"Cor ad cor loquitur"</i> (Heart speaks to heart). He was buried in Rednal (near Birmingham) 11 years later. After his grave was exhumed in 2008, a new tomb was prepared at the Oratory church in Birmingham.<br /><br />Three years after Newman died, a Newman Club for Catholic students began at the University of Pittsburgh. In time, his name was linked to ministry centers at many public and private colleges and universities in the United States.<br /><br />Pope Benedict XVI beatified Newman on September 19, 2010, at Crofton Park (near Birmingham). The pope noted Newman's emphasis on the vital place of revealed religion in civilized society but also praised his pastoral zeal for the sick, the poor, the bereaved and those in prison. American Catholic Blog God’s job, I think, is to keep lovingly disrupting our lives, and our job is to see if there are fresh opportunities for faith hidden within those disruptions. As a result, God keeps finding fresh ways to shake up our complacencies and challenge us to resist the seductive temptation to play the victim.


 
PICKS OF THE WEEK
Adventures in Assisi
“I highly recommend this charming book for every Christian family, school, and faith formation library.” – Donna Marie Cooper O’Boyle, EWTN host
Padre Pio
New from Servant! “It is always a joy to read about Padre Pio, and one always comes away a better person.” —Frank M. Rega, OFS
Zealous
Follow Jesus with the same kind of zeal that St. Paul had, guided by Mark Hart and Christopher Cuddy.
Fearless
Learn about the saints of America: missionaries, martyrs, bishops, heiresses, nuns, and natives who gave their lives to build our Church and our country.
New from Servant!
"Valuable and inspiring wisdom for everyone." —Ralph Martin, S.T.D., author, The Legacy of the New Evangelization



 
CATHOLIC GREETINGS
Thank You
Show someone your gratitude for their kindness with a Catholic Greetings e-card.
St. Pio of Pietrelcina
This 20th-century Capuchin friar is revered for his dedication to prayer. Do you know someone in need of your prayers?
Belated Birthday
Did you forget someone’s birthday? An e-card will reach them more quickly than the regular mail.
Catechetical Sunday
Catechists serve a vital role in the Church's mission of modeling and handing on the Good News of Jesus.
St. Francis
Promote peace among communities, nations and governments by promoting peace among individuals.


Come find us at: Facebook | St. Anthony Messenger magazine Twitter | American Catholic YouTube | American Catholic


An AmericanCatholic.org Site from the Franciscans and Franciscan Media Copyright © 1996 - 2014