I met Canon in Romania during the International Youth Meeting. We fell to be in the same group.
We talked at one of the breaks and it was extremely interesting for me to learn more about Orthodoxy in one of the most destroyed countries at the moment. For a long time, military actions have been raging in his country. But not only is he not sad, depressed or debilitated, but the opposite – he was joyful and with sincere faith in God. Exactly because of this I offered him to talk about a few things in the days of the Great Lent. Please, take a look at the story of the war in Syria and the life of the Orthodox Church there and learn more about the Patriarchate of Antioch and its activities in the United States.
– Please, introduce yourself to our readers. How did you find God and the Orthodox Church?
– My name is Canon Allam. I am 28 years old. I am from Damascus, Syria, and I am at the second year of my study in Theology at the Saint John of Damascus Institute.
– You are a native of Syria. We hear quite often news about the war there. How does the Orthodox Church and the Orthodox people experience all this?
– The war has been raging for 7 years now. It is hard time for everyone as no house of Syria is free of grief. Christians have suffered in many ways but just like Jesus have suffered on the cross and rose so does our church. In the last 3 years many young people have escaped by illegal means to Europe in order to find a chance of living. As the war have devastated the country in every way this bleed of youth is the biggest problem our church has suffered from. On personal experience my church used to have up to 32 people by the weekly youth meeting. Now only 5 of them remained. This has caused a great suffering. Many families are separated because one of the parents has gone abroad so that he/she can invite his/her family there. In this crisis the orthodox people have turned in two ways as all other did. One towards God, other in the opposite direction – people are trying to find relive. The church has opened her gate as much as she could to everyone who needs help. But there were some instances where western minsters tried to convert orthodox to their faith by bribe and financial aid means.
– Were are in the days of the Lent. How can a young person begin to fast and observe the church fasting during the year?
– It all should start in the family. This is what all the fathers of the church say. When you are accustomed to fasting from young age it will be easier. In the great lent it’s easy, if the person commits himself to the church and observed the services. Everything prepares the person for the resurrection. So in short – commit yourself into a group with the same interest in Christ as yours.
– We met in September in Romania at the Orthodox meeting there. With what expectations did you go to Romania and with what impressions did you leave?
– Romania is unknown to us and we hardly know anything about it. So we didn’t know what to expect. As we arrived we were greeted by the capital but what really left a mark was the strong orthodox faith in the country. The country might not have the best economy but in the spirit it is so rich. Any church you visit you smell the fragrance coming from the relics of the saints. Our visit to mount Sikla left us astonished as it is a very blessed place by the hardships of the monks there. And finally, we discovered the rich history that the Antioch and Romania have in common.
– Do you think that the Orthodox countries traditionally don’t fully appreciate their history and connection with the Orthodox Church?
– Yes, we can say that. When you study the history, you find how much history we share as orthodox. Orthodox countries should be more open to each other and help each other more.
– What do you think about Orthodoxy in America? The Patriarchate of Antioch has developed great preaching and missionary activities there.
– Orthodoxy in America is flourishing. As I have a priest in my family, who is living in the USA I see that there are some converts and in the biggest churches even more. It is quite unique as for Antioch especially. For us we are accustom to live in a very religiously divers place. You can see that in Damascus as all Christians patriarchate are near to each other. So, this tolerante way of life has made it easier for the Antiochian church to adopt more converts to her ranks. That’s what made it very successful in my opinion.
– This is your first interview for a Bulgarian media. What would you wish to our readers?
– Yes, it is. I wish everyone a blessed lent and may we all rise with Christ and I ask every one to pray for Syria and the kidnapped metropolitans of Aleppo – Paul Yagi and John Ibrahim.
Angel Karadakov interviews Canon Allam