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Syrian Priest who defied ISIS seeks deeper faith at WACOM Samoa conference

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, SAMOA – 23 MAY 2023:  A Syrian priest, Father Zaher Almhnna defied the wrath of the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq & Syria (ISIS) then fled Syria in July 2015 to Australia.

He has been a resident and now a citizen of Australia for 8 years and believes it is a beautiful gift from Divine Mercy.

He is currently serving at a Catholic parish in Melbourne where some of his parish members are Samoans.

Father Zaher Almhnna is in Samoa with members if his parish to attend the 5th World Apostolic Congress On Mercy (WACOM) now in its second day at the Tofamamao Pastoral and Cultural Centre, Leauva’a.

He shared a part of his story with Talamua and hopes he can take what he learns from the conference back to Syria one day.

“I am a refugee from Syria and I now belong to the archdiocese in Melbourne and it’s a beautiful gift from the Divine Mercy to be here in Samoa,” he said.

He fled Syria- a country at war with poverty everywhere and the government overthrown by the ISIS group

“Many times ISIS tried to kill me but the Divine Mercy was with me all the time, and for me being in this conference, I want to go deeper in my faith,” said Father Zaher.

Although he would love to return to Syria, he believes he needs to learn more.

“I want to learn more from this faith and from countries on how they love and trust Jesus, not just with words but with actions. I see them all the time working very hard and that’s the love and divine mercy I want to learn,” he said.

Father Zaher is from a totally different culture but being exposed to different ethnic communities and cultures not only in Australia but at the conference, he has come to appreciate other people, cultures and different beliefs.

“One day I would take all these to Syria,” said Father Zaher. .

He counted himself lucky to be here in Samoa and proudly showed off his ulafala gifted by the Samoan community at his parish in Australia.

“I feel blessed, and at the same time sad for all the people in my country who are suffering and not safe,” he said.

Father Zaher has only been here a few days and said he feels the warmth and hospitality of the Samoan people in welcoming them with open arms.