A moving tribute to Father Imad Daher, the priest who died in the 6 February earthquake in Aleppo, Syria, written by a childhood friend.
Sister Jacky Abinassif is from Majd el Meouch, in Lebanon, and knew Father Imad Daher well.
“He was a friend of my family – he was our neighbour – and a close friend of my brother’s,” she told Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). Now based in Montreal, she is the communications coordinator for the Melkite Eparchy of Canada and director of the trilingual (Arabic, English and French) Sawt el Rab (Voice of the Lord) online radio station.
In the past few years Father Imad had come to Montreal four times, most recently this past January. “The youth of our Church in Montreal loved him very much,” said Sister Jacky, who is a member of the Sisters of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary. A highly esteemed man of action and words, he was injured during the Syrian war, in 2012, when a staircase collapsed during a bombing, crushing his hands and much of his face.
Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) received permission to adapt and share Sister Jacky’s testimony. Shukran!
Dear Father Imad,
In January, we did not know that your visit to Montreal would be your last.
I had the chance to take this picture of you with your suitcase: it is as though you were on your way to paradise!
We encouraged you to stay a few more weeks in Montreal, to enjoy your presence here, because in Aleppo the school was still closed and there was no fuel to heat the classrooms.
So you told me: “During the war, I did not leave Aleppo and I did not abandon our people. If they are cold, I will be cold with them, and if they are in danger, I will live the worst and the best with them.” You also told me: “My sister, my mother the Virgin never abandons me. May God’s will be done.”
During the war in Syria, you were wounded and stayed in the hospital for months. You lost your eye and had to undergo several operations on your hands and face, but you never complained. You carried your sufferings with those of Christ Jesus and continued your journey with our suffering people until death. You shared the tragedy of the earthquake with the people of Aleppo, and for the second time, you fell under the rubble. But this time, you left to join the one your heart loves, Jesus.
Dear Father Imad, companion of my youth and companion in praying the Rosary, during the war in Lebanon, you were the only one to go from Ain El Remmaneh to Achrafieh and then to Al Dawra, under the bombs, to see if all was going well in the Christian communities.
After 25 years, we met again in Canada, and you came to participate in the Voice of the Lord Festival. You were enthusiastic and happy to see a festival for the Lord.
On the other hand, during the COVID-19 pandemic, you participated in a broadcast aired live on Facebook by the radio station I run (Sawt el Rab) about the doctrines of the Catholic Church, with the concern that people return to the teaching of our Church. With a firm tone, you said to me: “We must not follow just anyone. Our Church is our mother, and she has been our school for 2,000 years.”
At the Greek-Melkite Catholic Saint-Sauveur Cathedral in Montreal, both the young and the old loved you. At every outing and meeting, the youth wanted you there.
You celebrated Christmas and New Year’s with us here, and you were full of life and hope. You came to baptize my brother – and your great friend –Tony’s daughter, and to see the students who were with you at the Al Amal School in Aleppo, and who finally had to emmigrate to Canada, to remind them that the heart of our Church is the most tender and the one that allows them to be safe.
My brother, I know you are in heaven, but your departure is heartbreaking.
May the Lord help your mother and your family.
Help us in our encounter with you, in the image of our Master and Savior Jesus, who taught us that we are the children of the resurrection, the children of the Kingdom of God.
Christ is risen!
He is truly risen!
Pray for us, dear father and brother, and support all those who turn to you.
Finally, in the spirit of St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians, chapter 1, verse 23, I know that one of your greatest desires was: “…to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.”
Ila lika, Goodbye!
Sister Jacky Abinassif