Mass for Syria's suffering Christians
Syrian Christians who fled their homeland were among those at a Mass asking Our Lady's intercession for peace in the country.
Up to 150 people attended the Mass for Syria held at St Paul's Church, Ayr, at 7pm on Monday, 13th May.
Parish priest, Fr Gerald Donnelly presided at the Mass for the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima and Bishop John Cunningham of Galloway concelebrated.
Describing a conversation with a Syrian Christian now living in Scotland after Mass, Neville Kyrke-Smith, national director of Aid to the Church in Need (UK), said the ongoing problems in Syria affected relatives in the UK.
He said: "One of the Syrians told me that they had been speaking to relatives in Damascus that day and those in Syria had been told that unless they paid protection money their children would be kidnapped.
"I was told that every day these sorts of stories come out of the country, this shows that Syria's Christians are a persecuted minority."
Lorraine McMahon, ACN head of operations in Scotland, described how Fr Gerald Donnelly had said the mural in the Church highlights the links with Syria's suffering faithful.
She said: "The mural is of St Paul on his way to Damascus to persecute the Church there, when he experienced his conversion and Father commented on the connection between St Paul and Syria."
Addressing Massgoers, Mr Kyrke-Smith, described the situation facing Christians in Syria as it has been reported to the charity.
He said: "There are numerous examples of Christians being targeted and attacked deliberately or caught in the cross fire."
Adding: "As Pope Benedict XVI told us, Christians are being threatened in their very existence and so ACN is providing aid to Christians in Lebanon and Syria."
Mr Kyrke-Smith related the story of one Syrian family ACN staff met during a visit to a refugee camp in Jordan.
"What finally led them to flee their country was this chilling message that was spread by Islamists on the streets of their city, 'Don't celebrate Easter otherwise you will be killed like your Christ.'
"But where there has been persecution and there has been growth witnessing to Christ's love in the midst of terrible conflict."
Pupils from St John's Primary School and Queen Margaret Academy read the bidding prayers and older pupils served and read the Scripture lessons as well.
Bishop Cunningham thanked the children and all those who had worked so hard to prepare the service – as well as commending ACN for its work with persecuted Christians.
Also present at the Mass were Msgr Joe Boyd, vicar general of the diocese, Cannon Patrick Keegan from St Margaret's Cathedral, Fr Philip Kitchen, chaplain to Queen Margaret Academy and Fr Graeme Bell, St Mary's Saltcoats.
Source: Aid to the Church in Need