Syrian churches are 'exhausted'

Fighting has caused tens of thousands of Christians to flee their homes in SyriaPA

A Syrian Christian leader has spoken of the desperate plight of the church in the war-torn country.

Dr Mary Mikhael, of the National Evangelical Synod of Syria, said churches were being targeted in the conflict and that many Christians were being displaced.

As refugees, they lack adequate shelter, medicine, food supplies and "their human dignity", she said.

Dr Mikhael was addressing commissioners at the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland meeting in Edinburgh this week.

She said there was no Arab Spring for the people of Syria but "only a stormy dark winter".

In particular, she expressed concern that there would soon be no Christian presence in the country.
"The tragedy is getting bigger day by day … Now the big question is about our future."

Syrian churches are stepping in to help meet the needs of displaced people but she warned that they are "exhausted".

"Pray with us, be in solidarity with our church, help us bring hope to Syria," she said.

The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Right Reverend Lorna Hood paused proceedings to give commissioners a moment to pray about the situation.

She prayed: "Help us to stand beside them, to offer not only our prayers but all we can do as a Church to support them, to be with them and somehow through the power of your Spirit, the power of your love and your peace, bring once again peace and an end of strife and hardship to that land through Christ our Lord, Amen."

Former Moderator, the Very Reverend Professor Iain Torrance said the situation in Syria was a "tragedy that is beyond description".

It is also causing "enormous problems" for neighbouring Lebanon as a result of the influx of refugees, he noted.

Norma Packham, a General Assembly member originally from Iraq, urged the Church of Scotland "not to allow the Christians in Syria to suffer like the Christians in Iraq suffered" after the 2003 US-led invasion.

"It's good to pray for them to support them, but here the Church of Scotland with its authority, [it is good] to speak to the governments, the Scottish Government and the UK Government, to help them in a practical way, and not just to look for oil and not to allow the Syrian people become like the Iraqi people who are still suffering," she said.

The Reverend Na'el Abu Rahmoun, of the Diocese of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, drew attention to the abduction of Syrian bishops Yohanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yazigi, who are still missing after one month.

He asked Christians to keep praying for their safe return as well as the release of all people who have fallen victim to kidnapping in Syria.

"We ask Scotland, the UK, to work to stop violence," he said.

"We are not sure who is right in Syria but we are sure we want to stop the violence there and we need justice and peace in Syria, the Middle East and the world."

Dr Bernard Sabella, executive secretary of the Middle East Council of Churches, said Christians were not alone in being on the receiving end of unprovoked attacks.

He said the conflict was "making all of us victims" but he also pleaded with Christians across the Middle East not to leave the region.

"The solution for me is not to come out to Scotland but to stay put in my own country," he said.

Following the debate, the Church of Scotland's World Mission Council will take steps to urge the Syrian government to seek a "just and peaceable end to the conflict" and the protection of minorities in a new settlement.

Convener of the World Mission Council, the Reverend Andrew McLellan said the Church would "put all the energy we can" into making that happen.