Christian families currently living in our homeland are called to be like candles, shining against the darkness of destruction, wars, killings, and persecution.
(abouna.org) Philadelphia, September 27, 2015 – Pope Francis participated in a great gathering of families on Saturday, September 26, in Philadelphia, host city of the World Meeting of Families, for a vigil of prayer and a celebration of the family.
The event was punctuated by the testimony of six couples from various parts of the world representing various ages and conditions of family life.
Nidal Mousa Sweidan, his wife Nida, a Christian family from Jordan with their two daughters, Faten and Dema, who minister to people in serious poverty, religious persecution, immigration, and war, presented the following testimony:
“We have come here today representing the continent of Asia—Jordan is part of the Middle East that is in the western area of the continent. I am Nidal Mousa Sweidan and with me is Nida Joseph, my wife. Our two daughters, Faten and Dema, are also here, and we would like to share with you our experience as a Jordanian Christian family.
“Christian families currently living in our homeland are called to be like candles, shining against the darkness of destruction, wars, killings, and persecution. Our family tries to live as people of the Beatitudes, modeling for others the only true answer to this world’s problems: Jesus Christ. The roots of our Christian communities date back 2000 years, during which there have been many periods of having to endure persecution as others attempt to silence the Word of Jesus, but we rise together in support and love, in our families, churches, and larger communities. We are a minority, but we are like salt, which, needed only in small amounts, is essential for food.
“The conditions and hardships endured by the recent Christian refugees who have recently come to Jordan have made us, as a Jordanian Christian community, double our efforts to help better serve our brothers and sisters. These Iraqi and Syrian refugees have sacrificed everything except their faith, and we realize that we have a responsibility, a special call from the Lord to be his witnesses. Every single member of our family joins in this.
“Our family’s parish, Immaculate Conception, is located about 25 miles from the Syrian border and there are thousands of refugees in our area. With our parish, the support of the larger Catholic Church, and Caritas International, our family and church provides services such as food, employment, clothing, shelter, medicine, financial support and after school program for the refugee children.
“My small family is just one family of many participating in this effort. My wife works as a volunteer in a local group which shares the mission of the Catholic Church to serve the poor and to promote charity and justice throughout the world. She participates in providing direct financial support for the needy, and helps establish small projects to support the poor. My two daughters consider the parish their second home. They are actively involved in Immaculate Conception’s youth groups which serve young people of all ages, elementary, high school, and college. Their activities include conducting weekly meetings to study the Bible and teachings of the Church in a social setting. My younger daughter, Dema, is a leader in the elementary youth group, while my elder daughter, Faten, is a leader in the college student group. Our youth group is a very important aspect of our Christian life with approximately 400 participants. The group gives our children safe harbor in this overwhelmingly non-Christian community. Our youth can spend their free time in this Christian environment, grow in their faith, and feel supported and cared about.
“Our family is truly united in the love of Christ, and we know that it is the strength of His Body that animates us and gives us the very breath of life to endure and thrive in this hostile environment. We share that love with others as much as we can. We also share it within our family, spending time together praying and also having fun.
“Thank you, Holy Father, for your wonderful compassion for those who are struggling. Please pray for those who are struggling due to violence and war, immigration, lack of resources, and religious discrimination. Please also pray for those who minister to the hurting, may we all share each other’s burdens so that our loads become lighter and peace and love can prevail.”