Seven years ago, Issam Hadhad ran the second-largest chocolate factory in the Middle East in his homeland of Syria. Then a missile destroyed the factory and bombings took their home.
Issam and his family were forced to flee to Lebanon. They lived in a refugee camp for three years, hoping that they would be able to return home to Syria. But as the war continued, they realized they might never return home. Instead, they applied for and were granted asylum in Canada.
In 2016, Issam and his family arrived in a small town in Canada. The community welcomed the family and, after Issam began selling his chocolates at the farmer’s market, helped to build a small shed by his house for a chocolate factory.
Frank was one of the community members to welcome the Hadhad family, and he and Issam soon formed an unlikely bond. Although they only share about 40 words in common, the two have become friends, sharing experiences in chocolate and camping and fishing. Through hand gestures and cobbled together language, along with interpretations by family members, the pair have become close.
Now they call each other brother.
Issam knows he might never return to Syria, a land he dearly loves. But he is grateful for the new community he has found in Antigonish. “If all people walked together as if they were one heart, there’s hope for the future,” he says.
Frank recognizes that the world is often a divided and harsh place and that it can be difficult to overcome differences. But he knows it’s not hopeless. “It’s through acceptance and connection that at least you can bridge a conversation.”
Frank and Issam don’t share a language, but they’ve found a way to create a conversation, one that fosters relationship and hope, one of encouragement and love. In small conversations they’ve created a brotherhood.
In your own neighborhood, who among you feels hard to talk to, whether because of language barriers or differences in perspective? What steps can you take toward them, to create acceptance and connection?