How The Nazarene Fund is Taking One Family to Freedom
Updated March 6th, 2020
A burned corpse dumped in the pool of his family’s hotel was a stark warning to Antonios Al Assad Mikhael: surrender his property to the militia controlling his neighborhood in Homs Syria, or suffer the consequences.
Antonios previously managed to stave off the demands from the Islamist extremists. The Tonias Hotel, which Antonios poured his life savings into in 2011 just before the Syrian Civil War that has now stretched into almost a decade of terror first broke out, sat on the front lines of the battle between the Russian-backed Syrian government and rebel groups. Because of its strategic location, the rebels wanted to convert the hotel into a military operations center.
Antonios, his wife, and their three children — all Christians — had grown accustomed to the deafening blast of suicide bombings and sporadic sniper fire in their neighborhood. The hotel was the only thing left that put food on the family’s table, and Antonios wasn’t willing to give in to the militia’s pressure so easily.
But as the fighting amplified, the rebels flexed their muscle. It began with the grim message of the swimming pool, and in the fall of 2014, rebels stormed the Tanios Hotel. Antonios and his employees were arrested, falsely accused of harboring drugs and explosives, and he ultimately lost the hotel.
A Reign of Unrest and a Risky Escape Route
Antonios and his family tried to ride out the unrest, but life in a conflict zone took its toll. Food shortages were the norm and kidnappings commonplace. Antonios’ own son was abducted by masked gunman and ransomed for his release. Antonios himself escaped multiple kidnapping attempts. His disabled daughter was traumatized by the mental toll of the rampant violence. Personal possessions, like Antonios’ car, had long been destroyed by a bomb blast.
In search of safety, the family fled to Idlib along with over one million refugees from around Syria. They settled in the village of Qnayye, a center for Christians caught in the middle of the conflict. But just last month, the family once again found themselves caught between opposing forces. The fighting in Idlib has intensified and the area is being laid to waste, displacing over 700,000 since December. Many, like Antonios’ family, were already within their own country.
The Nazarene Fund has launched a rescue mission to save Antonios’ family. Meet them here, and stay tuned as The Nazarene Fund chronicles their journey towards freedom. Thank you for walking alongside us every step of the way.
Thanks to the prayers and support of people like you, we were able to reach Antonios’ family and speed them to safety. They are now safe and under The Nazarene Fund’s care. Here is a message from the grateful family.
Members of the Al Assad family