NZ Assyrians pray for peace back home

Syrians in New Zealand have spent this Christmas praying for peace in their home country.

The Assyrian community - Christians from both Syria and Iraq - held mass on Saturday night at their church in south Auckland.

Polen Soumo and husband Khaled Tuoma have been in New Zealand for more than a decade. They are Assyrian from north Syria.

"We lost everything we had," says Mr Tuoma. "Our village has all been gone."

He no longer has any family left in Syria, but wants to pass on to his three daughters the way their Christmases used to be, sharing treats together in peace.

Part of that tradition is attending Christmas Eve mass at the Assyrian church in south Auckland.

There Newhub met Ludy Chakhto. She arrived in New Zealand as a refugee from Syria last year.

The 24-year-old and her family fled north Syria in 2013. They spent almost two years in Lebanon before arriving here.

"I escaped first," says Ms Chakhto. "I fled first and then my parents came, so it took about a month together again in Lebanon."

She spent six weeks in the Mangere Refugee Centre - a place where she now works as an interpreter.

"We came from the same country, same background, pretty much same culture and we all suffered from the same bloody war so feel related to them."

At the Assyrian church we also met Jessie Youkhana. She came to New Zealand as a refugee from Iraq in the mid-90s.

"When we had the war there in Iraq we all escaped to Syria, and now unfortunately whatever is happening in Syria most of the people are in Iraq," says Ms Youkhana. "We pray for that."

Religion and race aside, they all have one prayer this Christmas  peace.