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Tuesday 18 May |
Saint of the Day: St. John I

How a Christian Father Came to Forgive the Muslim Rebels who Murdered His Daughter

Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 02/01/16

A stunning story of one man’s journey toward forgiveness:

It was 9 October 2012 when [Pascale Zezez] was kidnapped on bus from Homs, bound for Aleppo. The men who took her were militias with ties to the Free Syrian Army, Bashar al Assad’s opponents. She was 20-years-old when her lifeless body was discovered. That was when this Christian Melkite man from Aleppo – who is very knowledgeable about sacred Eastern art and has taken many pilgrims round on their visits to Syria – wrote an open letter to François Hollande, strongly condemning the political support France has lent to rebel groups, are increasingly infiltrated by Salafists. “Have you seen how Aleppo, the oldest city here has turned into a ghost town?” he wrote in October 2012. “Can you imagine Paris turning into a ghost town and hundreds of thousands of French families wandering round seeking shelter from the bullets, bombs and acts of wanton discrimination, fanaticism and brutality?” …He wears Pascale’s rosary around his neck: it has accompanied him on his journey in exile. Claude Zezez was also forced to flee the horrors of the war and is currently living in France. “I lost everything,” he says. “But the worst thing of all is obviously losing a loved one. As a believer, I spent the first six months fighting with God. But the anger I felt at my daughter’s death, slowly but surely gave way to a spiritual presence. When we escaped from Aleppo everyone told us we were mad, it was too dangerous. We had to pass through an infinite number of checkpoints. Each time could have been our last. But it was in teat very moment that I felt Pascale’s presence beside me, as if she had laid out a veil to protect us.” “I am often asked whether I have forgiven my daughter’s assassins,” Claude Zerez goes on to say. “To which I respond: I can forgive but I cannot forget. I made Jesus’ words my own: ‘Father forgive them for they know not what they do’. A Muslim heard me say it and remarked: ‘You led me to love Christians more’. This right here marks the beginning of reconciliation.”

Read it all. 

Photo: Vatican Insider / LaStampa

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