As Syria solemnly marks its fourteenth year of relentless conflict and the first anniversary of the devastating 2023 earthquake that killed more than 50,000 people in this country and neighboring Turkey, Deacon Engineer Saad Mounir Antti offers a poignant insight into the struggles and resilience of his homeland. 

“Syria was once one of the most beautiful and sophisticated countries in the Middle East,” Deacon Saad reminisces, providing a stark contrast to the harrowing reality now faced by its people.

The United Nations’ statistics portray a dire situation, but it is Deacon Saad’s personal narrative that truly brings the plight of Syria’s people to the forefront. “On February 11, 2013, my family and I left our home and work with only the clothes on our backs, seeking refuge in the city of Al-Hasakah in northeastern Syria to start our lives anew. Later, ISIS entered our new city in 2015, causing us to flee towards northern Syria for several months. We returned and settled in Al-Hasakah after the situation stabilized.”

Then, in 2016, they were displaced again, this time towards western Syria, “as the war continued to take its toll on us.” 

Like many Christian families, Deacon Saad and his family contemplated finding a way to migrate, but all their attempts were unsuccessful. Due to the stress of the harrowing situation, his father suffered a stroke, and is now paralyzed on one side. 

“I live in a house with my father Mounir (an architect), my mother Hayat (a school teacher), my older brother Firas (a former UN employee and graduate of the Faculty of Economics), my wife Sonia (a lawyer), and my two children, Sarah (5 years old) and Charbel (2 years old),” Deacon Saad shared.

The Christian community, an integral part of Syria’s diverse tapestry, has endured immeasurable hardship. Deacon Saad details this struggle: “Since the beginning of the war until now, more than 55% of Christians have fled the region.” Their plight is a microcosm of the broader Syrian crisis, where basic needs are increasingly unattainable, and survival is a daily challenge.

The 2023 earthquake, despite its tragic and almost unprecedented magnitude, was another drop of water in a glass already overflown. Deacon Saad describes the immediate and long-term effects: “The earthquake had compounded effects after 12 years of war, famine, and poverty in Syria.” He speaks of displacement, psychological trauma, and a shaken community struggling to find stability amidst continuous turmoil.

The earthquake that struck northern Syria last February added to the burdens of Syrians. Its impact was more concentrated in the city of Aleppo, and it had a lesser impact in Al-Hasakah,” Deacon Saad said. “However, it caused a lot of fear and psychological distress among children, especially when aftershocks occurred the next day. My five-year-old daughter is still afraid to sleep alone.”

As for the long-term effects of the earthquake, he said, hundreds, if not thousands, of Christians were displaced to other cities in the Syrian coast, southern Syria, and some to Europe and Canada: “This has resulted in a decrease in the number of Christians in the region.”

It has also led to significant economic repercussions due to the destruction and damage to infrastructure, hindering the country’s progress by delaying internationally agreed-upon reconstruction efforts. Moreover, there has been an increase in psychological effects and social disturbances. “We have witnessed numerous cases of Christian university students who left their universities and have been unable to return due to the fear of what they witnessed during the earthquake last year,” he said.

Despite these adversities, the Christian community remains steadfast, supported by the Church’s unwavering efforts. “Churches have intervened in various sectors, opening their doors to accommodate those whose homes were destroyed,” Deacon Saad explains. Yet, he is candid about the limitations faced due to economic sanctions and the dire need for international support.

Deacon Saad’s call to action is heartfelt and urgent. “I raise my voice to continue providing support to Christians in northern and eastern Syria and to increase this support to preserve the Christian presence in the East,” he implores. He outlines critical needs: healthcare support, educational scholarships, vocational training for women, and infrastructure development.

Concluding his message, Deacon Saad reflects on the global community’s role: “The Christians in northeastern Syria have been left by the world to slowly perish in this region without anyone caring for them.” His plea is a powerful reminder of our shared responsibility to support those in need, to be a beacon of hope in their darkest hours.

“From this platform, as a deacon in the Hassakeh diocese and a representative of the Syriac Catholic community, as well as the executive director of Mar Assia Relief Center for more than ten years, I raise my voice to continue providing support to Christians in northern and eastern Syria and to increase this support to preserve the Christian presence in the East,” Deacon Saad said.

As the world observes Easter, the story of Syria – a land of ancient faiths, now torn by war and natural disaster – is a poignant reminder of the need for compassion, solidarity, and action. It is a call to each of us to contribute, to support, and to bear witness to the enduring power of the human spirit, uplifted by faith and communal support.

**The Pontifical Mission Societies USA, through its crowdfunding platform Missio, has raised over $900,000 of relief funds for Syria and Turkey following the earthquake. You can find this project, and many others, at