UK Christians Thanked For Supporting Syrian Church

by Gerry Lynch last modified 13 Dec, 2013 11:00 AM

Campaigners say 300k signatures from 99 countries help 'amplify the voice' of one of world's most ancient Christian communities.

UK Christians Thanked For Supporting Syrian Church

Minister of State for Faith and Communities, Baroness Warsi, with the C of E's only Syrian-born priest, Nadim Nassar.

Advocates for the rights of Christians in Syria have thanked churchpeople in the UK, and around the world, for supporting a global petition which has helped them ‘amplify the voice’ of the Church in the Near-East nation.

On International Human Rights Day, as the world mourned the great champion of freedom, justice and reconciliation who was Nelson Mandela, Christians were presenting a petition at the United Nations in New York, signed by 309,195 people from 99 different countries. The petition called for freedom, justice and reconciliation for the people of Syria. The petition urges all those with influence and power to do everything possible to protect the lives, livelihoods and freedoms of all that country’s people and, in particular, safeguard the future of Syria’s Christian communities.

The delegation met both with the official Syrian Permanent Mission and the opposition Syrian National Coalition, as well as the missions of the five permanent members of the Security Council: China, France, Russia, the UK and the USA.

The petition was organized by Open Doors, a Christian NGO and mission which serves the persecuted Church worldwide.

Lisa Pearce, deputy CEO of Open Doors UK and Ireland, was part of the New York delegation. She said, “It was humbling and deeply encouraging to feel that every signature on the petition was presented and represented, knowing that across the world ambassadors were getting the same message, hearing the voices of Christians in Syria from Open Doors colleagues.”

A representative of the opposition said “It is very rare to see any kind of consensus on Syria, so to see a petition signed by so many people is beautiful. The [Syrian National] Coalition has to do more to make sure that the voice of the Syrian church is heard.”

Open Doors CEOs from France and Germany led lobbying efforts at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Meanwhile the London team, which included Nadim Nassar, the only Syrian-born Church of England priest, handed the petition in at 10 Downing Street. They also met with Russia’s Ambassador to the UK, and paid visits to the London embassies of the other permanent Security Council members: France, China and the USA.

In London, the day ended with a Human Rights Day reception at the Foreign Office, where the petition was presented to Faith and Communities Minister, Baroness Warsi, who in her speech declared that Freedom of Religion or Belief was a government and a personal priority.

Stephen Rand, Open Doors UK Advocacy Director said, “Thank you to all who signed the petition – it has helped us to amplify the voice of Christians in Syria. We will continue to make sure the voices of the Christians in Syria are heard whenever the future is under discussion; especially at the peace talks in Geneva next month. A thousand days after this crisis began, we are working and praying there will be a real breakthrough for a meaningful peace.”

 

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