Our March meeting was on ST DAVID’S DAY! Our speaker was George Jabbour. Syrian born, George is now a naturalized British subject. He spoke about his early life as a Christian minority living in Damascus. He attended a Christian primary school run by nuns, with both Christian and Muslim pupils studying next to each other and who, from a young age, respected other religions. They started classes by saying the Lord’s Prayer in Arabic, their official language. During the meeting, we enjoyed listening to George saying the Lord’s Prayer in Arabic.
Syria has a very authoritarian, oppressive regime. You can’t speak your mind and you can’t criticise anyone in authority. Despite the lack of freedom of speech, George managed to live a normal life.
You may have already met George – he is the Conservative candidate in the Welsh Assembly election. His presentation, however, was completely neutral and didn’t refer to UK politics.
George’s school in Damascus is located in a Christian area called Bab Touma (Thomas’s Gate). It is named after St Thomas who lived there in the early days of Christianity. Here, in a street called Straight, Ananias of Damascus laid his hand on Saul so he could see again. Saul was then baptised and, of course, we are all familiar with the missionary journeys of St Paul. Hence we have the expressions: Damascene conversion and the Road to Damascus.
George practiced some of the Welsh he learned recently and wished us all: Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus!