PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The pictures of hundreds of thousands of Syrians fleeing into Europe has dominated international news coverage recently. But for Michael Faris and Norm Faris, the pictures are personal.
The cousins are leaders in the Syrian Lebanese American Club in Portland — Michael is the vice president, Norm the president — and each has deep Syrian roots and family ties.
“My father was born and raised in Syria. He moved to America when he was 16 years old,” Michael told KOIN 6 News. Norm said he is “a first-generation Syrian here in America.”
The club does not express any political opinions on the ongoing conflict.
They’ve each visited the country and said it’s heartbreaking to watch their country literally fall apart. But there is also some fear as some of their family still lives there along the Mediterranean.
“Unfortunately, it’s not the same place it was. With war comes turmoil and harsh times,” Norm said. “They’re undergoing the impacts of war. The economy is slow, opportunities are slow, food slow, inflation.”
But he said there are thousands of people who want to stay because it’s home.
“It’s generations and generations of our family that have lived in the area and they don’t want to give it up,” he said.
Both Faris men want to see the conflict end, but all they can do now is hope.
“It’s devastating,” Norm said. “One day I wanted to take my children there to visit and see our lineage and I don’t know when that is going to happen.”
Syrian Lebanese American Club is located at 11610 SE Holgate Boulevard. They can be reached at 503.760.4848.