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Building a Centre of Hope through creative, edible ways

The food culture in Southern Africa is not only a very prominent one, but it’s also a way to build communities and big customer brands. It can also be a reason to visit people and find out how they’re doing, to start a conversation with your friends and strangers in a shop, and a way to show support for many who may be struggling and going through a tough time. And for many, a coffee before church or lunch after church, during the week, or just a spontaneous hang out at home can bring a significant change in many societies around us. This kind of food culture isn’t only prominent in Africa but the Middle East as well. In Irbin, Syria, Joseph opened the only cafe-restaurant in his area. We’re praying that it will be a Centre of Hope and the message of the love of Jesus to many displaced believers in the country.

The war has been raging for ten years now in Syria, and in July 2012, many inhabitants had to flee Irbin, a suburb of Damascus, as militia took control over the area. Like many of the inhabitants, Joseph, a Christian man, also fled. But since the area came under government control in 2018, people have returned, and Joseph recently opened the first café-restaurant in Irbin. It’s one of five income-generating projects that were started in the area, thanks to your prayers and support.

“The first time I returned to Irbin, the thought came to my mind that I should open a restaurant here. There is no such place in the whole area. I talked to Father Danial about it, and he contacted you, and at the beginning of 2021 the restaurant was ready to be opened,” Joseph explains.

Many believers, who were displaced from areas controlled by the rebels, often don’t feel comfortable returning there, or they can’t return because they’ve lost their houses.

“[Al Yousef’ Café] is a place for the youth to gather, to play games, to watch football and for families to have a nice dinner together. Our space is also used for conferences. We already had a doctor doing an educational conference for women. It’s the only spacious hall in the city.

“My dream is that Irbin will be restored to how it was before the war. I was born here, and so were my wife and three children. I want to bring my family back and settle here. The community of Irbin is very family friendly. The church taught us loyalty and care and that we are one family. I was raised this way, and I want my children to experience this as well.” Joseph says with a convincing steady voice: “I’m very hopeful for the future; my children are a source of my hope.”

Joseph is one of the beneficiaries of the income-generating projects Open Doors supported. Through our local partners, we invested in 1 734 income-generating projects for the Centres of Hope. The projects have helped people like Joseph start a restaurant and other people a shop, small factory, workshop or supported them with investments in their agricultural activities that also helps many other community members have a form of income for their families.

“This gives them the opportunity to support their families and to build a future again in their country. It encourages brothers and sisters around them when they see them succeed. Thus, you’re bringing hope to many Syrians. Amidst the destruction in the country, these are the burning candles of hope, showing that the situation in the country isn’t only one of deep sadness and despair. The war doesn’t have the last word,” says an Open Doors staff member.

So, the next time you hang out with your family and friends, say a prayer for believers in Syria who are rebuilding their lives and being a beacon of hope and a light for Jesus in their communities through these income-generating projects. Join our family in Syria by becoming a bearer of hope to help believers in Syria build their communities and spread the message of Jesus. Click here to be a light and hope, making sure that though they are persecuted, they are never alone.


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