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From Damascus, with love: How a refugee chocolatier produces chocolates for peace

Until the Syrian war in 2012, master chocolate maker Isameddin Hadhad was renowned in Damascus for his artisanal chocolates. Finding refuge in Canada, he and his family are making chocolate again—and using their business to spread the message of peace.

I’m striding along the Halifax waterfront, shoulders hunched against a blustery autumn breeze that’s threatening to toss me into the harbor. Dark, bruised clouds hang heavy across Georges Island, while a ferry, lit by a sudden burst of sunlight, lurches through the fog. I pull my scarf tighter and make a run for the brightly lit Peace by Chocolate store, its warm and welcoming interior glowing like the North Star.

Inside, amid the rows of glass cases displaying truffles and fondants, I find a wall of chocolate bars dedicated to the global protection of children, and another filled with ‘Pride’ bars advocating the LGBTQ+ community flag. With the tagline, ‘One Peace Won’t Hurt,’ the hand-crafted collection includes everything from creamy white chocolate with blueberry to gold chocolate with hazelnut.

But it’s the portrait of chocolatier and founder Isameddin (Isam) Hadhad that I’m drawn to. Painted by Syrian-Canadian artist Houssam Alloum, the image is a portal to a story that began in Damascus, Syria. A story about peace, hope and the human spirit.

From inception, the family’s goal for Peace by Chocolate was to support initiatives that foster peace and help alleviate the suffering of others. Today, the company donates 3-5 percent of all profits to the Peace on Earth Society, with 11 active partnerships including the Refugee Hub of Canada, the Nitap Indigenous Program, the Grocery Foundation of Atlantic Canada, the Canadian Mental Health Association and Peace for Ukraine.

Would the Hadhad’s return to Syria? “Canada is not like a hotel or a hospital that we leave after we recover,” says Tareq. “It is our home now, which means that we are committed to staying and contributing to this incredible nation.”

On my last day in Halifax, I return to Peace by Chocolate to buy treats to take home to Australia for family and friends. With each chocolate made, the Hadhads are asking us to remember the countless people worldwide who are still being displaced by war. And that peace, compassion and inclusivity are the noblest values of all.


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