FLEEING WAR IN SYRIA THEN SUDAN: A FAMILY’S SEARCH FOR SAFETY

As the conflict in Sudan reaches its first anniversary, a Christian family have shared their heartrending story of having to flee two wars in the region, displaying remarkable faith and courage in the face of repeated danger and loss.

George Bitar, originally from Sudan, is married to Alice, from Syria, and they have two sons, Naim (22) and Jan (15). “Everyone around us is surprised by our strength,” George says candidly as he speaks to camera, telling the family’s story to SAT-7 ARABIC’s social media program War Phobia.

George first left Sudan in 1994 and moved to Syria, where he married Alice and they started a family. “We had a good life until the war happened in Syria,” George reflects. As the conflict reached their district, they decided to flee, carrying only one bag in the belief that they would be able to return soon.

“The only refuge for us was Sudan because I am originally Sudanese,” George explains. But their journey was a perilous one along an army route between Aleppo and Damascus, which took over 12 hours through active conflict zones, before they could board a plane to Sudan. “We thought it would only be for a week, and then we would return, but until today I have never returned to my house in Syria,” says George.

SHORTLIVED SAFETY IN SUDAN

George had not been to Sudan for 20 years when he turned up with his family in search of refuge. “Little by little, I began work from scratch,” George explains. “After a year, I felt God compensating us. I built a home and bought furniture. God gave me better than what I had in Syria. I bought a shop and a shop for my son Naim. He got engaged. We lived a good life in Sudan.”

But war was coming for them again. On 15 April 2023, fighting broke out in the capital, Khartoum, between the army and the Rapid Support Forces paramilitary group in a power struggle for control of Sudan. The fighting has displaced over 8 million people and left around 25 million in need of humanitarian aid. Almost 15,000 deaths have been reported, but the true figure is likely to be higher. [1]

“War started right under our house,” George recalls. “I woke up to the sound of strikes under my home. The house was rattling. We had no opportunity to think. We were terrified. There were air strikes around our house. There was no electricity or water. It became a ghost town.”

George and Alice had just ten minutes to make a decision about their family’s future. They decided to pack up what they could and flee their home – again. “This time, I knew we were not going back,” George says.

He describes another journey fraught with danger: “My greatest fear was that someone in my family would get hurt. Our car was shot at. I stopped so they would see that we were civilians, but they still shot at us, and I had to speed up to flee for our lives.”

This time, the family went to Egypt and sought shelter in a school. “I slept on the floor with a broken heart,” George says.

“I HOPE THAT LOVE PREVAILS”

George is honest about the negative emotions he feels as a result of all he has been through: “I fear for the children’s future. I hate wars. I hate the sound of bullets.”

But he is also able to see how God has been at work for good through the situation. “I am proud that my sons went through a difficult ordeal that would make them strong,” he says. “It also showed the love we have for each other.”

When George thinks to the future, he trusts that God, who has already helped him rebuild his life once, will do so again. “I have faith that God will compensate us,” he says. “I hope that love prevails rather than power.”

War Phobia is a short series of personal stories told by people affected by conflict in the Arab world. SAT-7 ARABIC’s You Are Not Alone program will feature two guests from Sudan in a special episode to mark the first anniversary of the conflict. And the channel provided spiritual encouragement for Sudanese Christians in the run-up to Easter with a special meditative and worship program called Gems of the Cross. Presented by Sudanese Christians, short episodes focused on different stories from the last week of Jesus’ life on earth, and encouraged viewers to develop a Christ-like heart as they considered His acts of humility, forgiveness, and love.

PLEASE PRAY:

  • For an end to the conflicts in Sudan and Syria.
  • That those displaced from their homes will either be able to return or find safety elsewhere.
  • That the Bitar family’s story will inspire viewers of War Phobia to take refuge in the Lord and trust Him in whatever circumstances they face.

[1] Sudan | Situation Reports (unocha.org)

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