Saturday the 12th of June

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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Samir’s all smiles as his dream restaurant opens

The Bishop of Salford has congratulated a family who fled war-torn Syria and realised their dream of opening a restaurant in Manchester.

Samir Hamwyeh, the owner of Middle Eastern restaurant Samir’s, was welcomed to the UK in November 2016 by parishioners from St Monica’s R.C. Church, Flixton, in the Diocese of Salford.

Born in the Syrian city of Homs, Samir was forced to flee his home, along with his family, due to war.

Having spent four-and-a-half years living in destitution in Lebanon, the Hamwyehs became the first Syrian family to be welcomed into the UK by a Catholic parish under the Community Sponsorship Project.

It took just over two years for Samir fulfil his dream of opening a Middle Eastern restaurant.

“From the beginning I have wanted to open [a restaurant], but when I’m ready, when I know the situation here and I find the place,” Samir told The Manchester Evening News. “[The parishioners] helped however they can, and more. Many people came to work with me. They didn’t let me pay and they worked with their bare hands.”

The venue, located on Chester Road in the heart of Stretford, opened in March and has already been a great success.

Sean Ryan, Caritas National Co-ordinator for Community Sponsorship, who led the parish pilot scheme by St Monica’s, told The Catholic Universe: “The successful launch of Samir’s restaurant, just two-and-a-half years on from his family’s arrival in the UK as refugees from Syria, marks a truly extraordinary and inspiring achievement, and is testament to Samir’s unshakeable faith, courage and resilience.

“Samir’s new venture came about through the tireless support and advocacy of a group of St Monica’s parishioners, who had recently resettled his family under the Community Sponsorship Scheme, and is thus a powerful exemplar of the Catholic Church’s leading role in this ground-breaking community-led resettlement model.”

Bishop John Arnold recently joined parishioners from St Monica’s, as well as other special guests including politicians and members of the media, to celebrate the momentous achievement of the restaurant’s launch with a complementary meal and live music.

During the evening, Bishop Arnold addressed those in attendance, noting that the launch of the restaurant was a great success for not only Samir and his family, but for all of those who had supported him, including St Monica’s and Caritas Diocese of Salford. He also highlighted the “outstanding effort” of Catholic parishes, revealing there are 52 families being welcomed into Catholic parishes nationally.

“Isn’t that what Pope Francis is telling us we’re all about, we’re missionary disciples, we’ve got a purpose about putting the Gospel into action in a very practical way and this is real evidence of us doing that,” he added.

Bishop Arnold explained that it is also important that so many of these families being welcomed into the UK are Muslim as it ensures that the country is open to building community relations, which, he added, are of great significance to Manchester in particular.

“Here in Manchester we do have good community relations but we need to forge even stronger ones because this is a city that belongs to a cosmopolitan society and this city has grown on the gifts and the talents of people from all over the world,” he said.

“We welcome all and we thrive on sharing our traditions and our cultures and being stronger for the fact that so many people come from all over the world to build our society.

“Congratulations Samir and your family, you’re very welcome among us and congratulations to each and every one of you who’ve contributed to the success of this occasion and the arrival of so many families among us, thank you very much indeed,” the bishop concluded.

Picture: Bishop Arnold accepts some food from Samir. (Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk).