The word of God made the difference between life and death for Fadia and Rafi Eskeif, two of about thirty refugees from Syria who were presented with brand new Arabic-English Bibles in Sydney this week.
The Bibles were made available for newly arrived refugees from Syria and Iraq through Anglicare and Bible Society Australia.
For Fadia and her family, the Bible was the only place they could turn to for help when they were threatened by terrorists in their home city of Aleppo.
“The Bible means a lot to us,” Fadia told Eternity through an interpreter, after receiving her bilingual Bible at St Paul’s Anglican Church in Bankstown in Sydney’s southwest.
“They started to shoot into the sky and say, ‘Christians, we are going to kill you, we’re going to slaughter you!’”
“When we were in Aleppo, an organisation called Friends of Daesh came to our building early one morning. They were just outside our door – my husband could see them through the peephole in the door. So while we could hear them, they started to shoot into the sky and say, ‘Christians, we are going to kill you, we’re going to slaughter you!’”
As Fadia recalls the terrifying scene, she starts to weep; after dabbing her eyes, she continues her story in a wavering voice:
“We were inside with my son, Majd, and we could hear all of this happening. All we had was the word of God, so we knelt down and we just prayed and read the word of God for about eight hours, or maybe more like ten hours. I was praying, ‘Lord, just move them so we can escape,’ and Jesus heard us and they moved from our front door up to the roof.
“So we couldn’t even get out that way because they were in the streets and I was praying ‘Lord, don’t just move them to the roof but please let them leave the whole place so we can escape.”
“It seems like the blood of Jesus was on our door.”
Fadia says most of the families in their building had a sense that something was wrong and had left the previous day, but they and another Christian family were trapped.
“So while they were up in the roof I was able to run to our neighbour, another Christian family, and we were able to comfort each other.”
Finally, about 6pm, the Syrian Army arrived and began to push the terrorists out, allowing Fadia’s family to flee to her parents’ house in a different part of the city. They left everything behind and have never been back.
Fadia is quite convinced that Jesus protected her family from being killed that day.
“It seems like the blood of Jesus was on our door. The terrorists were just outside the door and they didn’t even knock and ask to go to the toilet or to eat something and they had come from 4am till 6pm. There was protection on our house.”
Since that trauma in 2012, Fadia and her family have been too frightened to return home. They fled to Lebanon, where they lived and worked for three years, Fadia in a dress shop and Rafi as a diamond-setter for jewellery. About ten months ago they came to Australia under the special humanitarian programme for Syrian and Iraqi refugees displaced by war. But with little English, and no work, they are struggling to settle down.
“We feel safe here but we’re struggling with language and finding work. That’s really bringing us down. We feel depressed because of that,” Fadia says.
However, their 17-year-old son, Majd, loves Australia and wants to become a police officer as soon as his English language is good enough.
“I love this country, this was my dream when I was four years old. I said I wanted to live in Australia and Jesus sent me to Australia. I have to say thank you, Jesus.”