Act and Pray for Syria

by Gerry Lynch last modified 23 Aug, 2013 11:57 AM

Church leaders call for Christians to pray and act - especially by writing to their MPs - on Syria.

Act and Pray for Syria

The Dar Al-Shifa Hospital in Aleppo, destroyed by a government airstrike in November 2012. Credit: flickr.com/syriafreedom

The situation in Syria continues to deteriorate, with growing evidence of chemical weapons use and the UN declaring that a million children have now fled the country. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby, has called for Christians to pray and act on behalf of Syrians, and to particularly remember the vulnerable Christian community in the near eastern county.

He said, ‘It’s absolutely clear that Christians in Syria are being persecuted, we know for example that in many areas of Aleppo, historic Christian areas since the first century, people are being chased out in large numbers. I would encourage people to pray and to write to MPs asking them to think very carefully about the wisdom of supplying further weapons to an area of such complex and extreme violence."

Syria has one of the most ancient Christian communities on earth. In Acts 9, Saul experiences his conversion while on his way to persecute followers of Christ in Damascus. There are just under 2 million Christians in Syria today, one of the largest communities in the Arab World, mostly members in Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox or Uniate Churches. (Uniate Christians use an Orthodox liturgy in worship while professing allegiance to the Pope).

From a population of 22 million, the UN estimates 100,000 people killed since the outbreak of civil war in 2011. Campaigners and aid agencies estimate there are now 2 million refugees in neighbouring countries and 4 million internally displaced.

What started as a revolt against a repressive régime, often brutal towards practising Sunni Muslims, is now taking on an increasingly sectarian character and is in danger of becoming a proxy war for outside powers is in danger of becoming a proxy war for outside powers.

Refugee Camp in SyriaIranian and Lebanese Hezbollah are sending ever larger numbers of fighters to support the Assad régime, while China and Russia assist with money and arms. On the other side, rebels are being armed and funded by Saudi Arabia and conservative Gulf States.

Paradoxically, given the increasing power of Al Qa’eda-linked groups within the fractious rebel coalition, the USA and the UK have also supplied support to the rebels, with some media outlets calling for this to go further.

Intervening in the House of Lords just before Summer recess, Tim Thornton, Bishop of Truro, warned against arming Syrian rebels and expressed particular concern for Syrian Christians.

International Christian persecution charity Open Doors has published a report, Syria: church on its knees, highlighting the threat to Christians and the increasing evidence that Christians are being deliberately targeted in some parts of the country.

Stephen Rand, Open Doors Advocacy Director said, "We are asking Christians to pray for Syria, to write to their MPs highlighting the issues, especially those facing Christians, and to sign our Save Syria petition.

"Open Doors is not campaigning solely for the Christian population: our petition calls for action on behalf of all. But as a Christian organisation we are speaking out for the church to ‘strengthen what remains’ and honour those Christians who decided to stay and serve others in a dangerous situation. Churches are responding positively to the needs of others, and not just within their own community: some are supporting both Christian and Muslim families.

"The Church in Syria does not wish to be seen as a victim and wants to speak out for the whole of Syrian society. A future Syria must include all minorities, including Christians."

Weblink: Open Doors' Save Syria campaign hub.
Lower photograph: Refugee camp near Aleppo. Credit: Open Doors.

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