Fadi and Rana fell in love while working for the United Nations Refugee Agency. On July 12, they returned to their hometown of Homs, Syria, a city north of the capital, Damascus, to get married in their church. But instead of polished pews and stained glass, rubble flanked their wedding aisle. "After about a year and a half, the fighting reached my house in the old city of Homs, and I had to run for my life, leaving everything behind," Fadi told the UN. "I had to move a lot and find a new job. In this difficult time, I was able to work as a teacher for UNHCR’s vocational training, which is when I met my fiancée, Rana."
"Soon after, we figured out that we are both from the same neighborhood, but we had never met before! Despite the short time we spent together, we found time to sit and talk. We got to know each other well, and discovered many common interests, and we simply fell in love," he added. The country's ongoing civil war tore through the historic church at St. George's Monastery. As the violence continues, Syrian Christians, who are a minority in the country, have faced serious threats. But to show their love for each other, as well as for their country, Fadi and Rana walked down the aisle at St. George's anyway. They are two of about 2,000 refugees who have come back to Homs since 2014.
The church posted pictures of the wedding on its Facebook page; the beautiful couple reminded the world that #LoveWins — or can win — even in the face of unspeakable violence and humanitarian tragedy. Rana and Fadi's wedding is a sweet oasis in the midst of a struggle that has incurred a massive human toll; the UNCHR estimates that some four million Syrian refugees have fled the country.
Thousands of Christians have fled Syria since civil war broke out in 2011. As of 2014, 191,000 people had died in the conflict; that number has most certainly risen since. Greek Orthodox Christians — such as Fadi and Rana — make up about 9% of Syria's population. In a breakdown of Syria's warring factions, the Washington Post explains that, possibly out of fear, most Syrian Christians support President Bashar al-Assad's regime. But slowly, people like Fadi and Rana have bravely returned to Homs to resume their lives there. "I’m happy to see my old neighborhood flourishing again, which was once the bustling center of Homs,” Fadi told UNHCR. Editor's note: Last month, Refinery29 shared the story of another inspiring Syrian refugee, 24-year-old concert violinist Mariela Shaker. You can read the inspiring story of how she escaped the violence of her homeland to take the stage at the Kennedy Center here.