A farewell to Majdi, my Syrian friend

In the summer of 1988, a young passionate football fan and technology addict from Syria was overwhelmed by the fantastic football of Oranje, the Dutch National Team. Not only the way they played and won the European Championship but also the constellation of the team. Gullit, Rijkaard, van Basten, a beautiful colorful team with sensational football. Majdi was impressed by it all and that summer he decided that he wanted to study in The Netherlands, that small country in Europe where football was an art and integration was normal, and universities offered esteemed programs in Information Technology which was Majdi’s wish since he was in high school. Getting a permit to study in The Netherlands turned out to be more difficult and complicated than Majdi had imagined but that didn’t stop this young man. Majdi had a goal and he did everything to achieve that.

So late 1989, I received a long letter from that young motivated Syrian in which he requested me to support his wish to study Information Technology in The Netherlands and all the wonderful details why studying in The Netherlands was so important to him. I was moved that someone felt so passionate about our beautiful country. Many calls were made, paperwork was done, obstacles were taken, making this happen was something personal because of how this guy reached out and how his motivation touched everyone who was involved, including myself. Majdi arrived in The Netherlands in the summer of 1990, accepted to start his studies at his preferred University and he impressed everyone how much Dutch he had already learned through an online course. That was the beginning of a long and beautiful friendship, in which my friend Majdi never stopped to amaze me with his personality and passion.

Majdi concluded his studies with fantastic grades and I demanded he would accept the job I offered him, Majdi did and became a valued member of our team. Majdi had friends everywhere, was highly involved in our society and did volunteer work as translator. Majdi was a free-thinker, an open minded person and a bridge builder. Passionate about his country and his culture, passionate about history and always looking for opportunities to learn. Majdi strongly believed that dialogue is the only way to develop understanding, and understanding is the only way to achieve acceptance and acceptance being the only path towards peace. With that mindset, Majdi had many friends in all areas of our society, amongst Arabs, Jews and Christians alike, and among supporters and opponents of the Syrian Presidency. In so many ways, Majdi reminded me of my mother. Continue reading