Syrian Christian wins Excellence and Creativity Award from the Hungarian Central Bank

I had the honour of interviewing a fascinating young man, Ibrahem Sabra, who received the Excellence and Creativity Award from the Hungarian Central Bank (MNB) earlier this month. Ibrahem, a Syrian Christian, has led an inspiring life and accomplished amazing things throughout constant difficulties.

R.F.: Thank you so much for taking the time to have this interview and for sharing your fascinating life journey. 

I.S.: Thank you for your time to interview me and for publishing my success. I would also like to thank SCYP (Scholarship for Christian Young People) for this opportunity to study in Hungary and for supporting me to succeed. I am really grateful to my second family, the SCYP, for showing me compassion and love. I am especially thankful to God for granting me His blessing in achieving my current success. I am really proud of being a part of this and for my certificate that I received from MNB (Magyar Nemzeti Bank) called the Excellence Award for Academic and Community Work. 

R.F.: Please tell us a bit about your background and how you won the Award.

I.S.: I am a Syrian citizen, born in Kuwait. I have a university degree in Economy; also a Technical Diploma Certificate in Civil Engineering with a Major in General Structure. I worked as an accountant for the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate for seven years; I also worked as a teacher of engineering at the Al-Baath University Technical Engineering Institute between 2010 and 2015. I applied for a Hungarian scholarship twice, in 2018 and 2019. Finally, I was accepted to the Budapest Gazdasagi Egyetem (Budapest Business University, Faculty of Finance and Accountancy) in 2020. I wish to obtain my Master’s Degree here.

MNB used a credit system to choose the winner of the Award. The University evaluated the students based on their achievements. In addition to finishing the compulsory internship at the university, I had to submit and upload all my certificates. My current credit points were: 4.2/5. My other activities and accomplishments also played a major part. I participated in the MITO KLUB (More Innovation! Talent Orientation Research Group) competition and won the final as 1st prize.

My current thesis topic to gain the diploma is about sustainability, under the title “Sustainable Energy and its Impact on Syrian Economy”, which talks about how to harness wind and solar energy and their impact on supporting the Syrian economy. I was also awarded by the Shanghai International Studies University for successfully completing the “Chinese Bridge” Delegation Online ProgrammeI volunteered at the Budapest Greek Catholic Church Humanitarian Aid during the devastating earthquake of Syria and Turkey from February till July 2023. I packed essential supplies and helped with shipping them. Then I took part in the Polish international conference called Religious Freedom and other Human Rights: Threats and Trends. I also got involved in a library competition and translated some of Petofi Sandor’s poems into Arabic. I really enjoyed this activity. All of my professors and the librarians loved it.  After submitting all the documents, they contacted me with the good news that I won the scholarship with a grant of 50,000 HUF a month for ten months.

R.F.: What made you choose the poem called “Szornyu ido” from Petofi, our national poet?

I.S.: It is a sorrowful poem about war, written during the 1848-49 revolution. Petofi describes the horrors and the difficult Hungarian reality of the time. I found compelling similarities between that and the realities of my beloved Syria. Both countries have been war-torn, people lost hope and were fighting for survival against extremism. 

R.F.: It must’ve been extremely difficult to be a Christian in Syria, especially during the war.

I.S.: That is true. Since the terrorist group ISIS took control, they destroyed homes and churches, murdered and displaced a large number of people. We had to move homes four times. My sister’s family and mine lost everything, but thankfully, God saved our lives. When our home in Homs was damaged in 2011, we moved to Hama and stayed there for 40 days, then moved to the city of Damascus, and we had to move to the urban areas again. More than 100,000 people were displaced in our neighborhood. We lived through a lot of pain, but God gave us strength to persevere and help others even in the most difficult circumstances. 

R.F.: Despite all these hardships you managed to maintain a positive attitude and continued to help people. What made you choose Hungary in the first place?

I.S.: Other Syrian refugees arrived in Hungary before me and they were really impressed. The Hungary Helps Programme provides essential aid to Syria, including food, maintenance of schools, hospitals, they offer free treatments for injuries, they help with jobs and education. It is a tremendous support and we are really grateful for it. I mentioned that education has been really hard during the ISIS invasion. Education is so much better in Hungary, I have also enrolled in a Hungarian language course to learn the language. If I want to get a job here it is essential to speak Hungarian. 

R.F.: You have an impressive educational background. How many languages do you speak?

I.S.: I speak Arabic, English, Aramaic – the language of Jesus Christ and I’m studying Hungarian now. I learnt Aramaic for the pure affection for Jesus, I find it beautiful and fascinating. It is an expression of my Christian faith in a manner of speaking. 

R.F.: You have achieved so many amazing things. What are your plans for the future?

I.S.: I wish to obtain my Master’s Degree and get a job as an accountant, perhaps in a bank. I also wish to continue my volunteer work. It is wonderful to be able to contribute to helping others when needed. I am also a member of an Arabic Choir, and we have concerts in various parts of Europe. Our latest concert took place in Vienna on the 17th of December.

R.F.: That is fantastic. I wish you continued success in your endeavours. It has been a pleasure talking to such an inspiring person. Thank you so much for your hard work and I’m sure God will be with you on your journey onwards.

I.S.: Thank you for your time and hard work, I really appreciate this opportunity.

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