Thousands were praying for 'targeted' Syrian Christians as peace talks announced

The announcement of Syrian peace talks that will take place in Geneva early next year has come immediately after a global 'Pray for Syria' event held by Christian charity Open Doors.

A meeting in Oxford, UK for 150 Christians, who 'sang, listened, prayed, and wept' in response to the on-going crisis reinforcing a half-a-million-signature petition campaign.

By the end of today's International Human Rights Day they hope to have 500,000 signatures that will be presented simultaneously in New York to the UN missions of the five permanent members of the Security Council and to many of their embassies across the world.

In the UK a request has gone in to present it to David Cameron at 10 Downing Street, strengthening the mandate for peace.

Stephen Rand, advocacy director for Open Doors UK said, "I've always believed prayer is a powerful weapon for change in the world," adding "I also believe the voice of people talking to people in power is also a powerful weapon. The two things go together."

Open Doors has described the upcoming talks as "a ray of hope in the darkness" and claimed they give "added impetus" to its own 'Save Syria' Campaign.

Mr Rand said he hopes the outcome of the peace talks, which are due to be held in January 2014, would be "a peace that's honouring to all citizens and gives freedom to all citizens so there's full religious liberty".

His words come after Ban Ki Moon commented it would be "unforgivable" to miss the opportunity to end the violence.

The UN, US and Russia have been attempting to bring the Syrian government and opposition together for months. The news of a meeting comes shortly after world powers finally agreed a deal with Iran over its nuclear program.

Foreign Secretary William Hague welcomed the UN announcement and repeated his view that a negotiated peace would be the "only way to end the conflict".

"The Syrian regime is now in the spotlight. They need to take immediate steps to alleviate humanitarian suffering across the country, and stop their brutal tactics which include besieging and attacking civilian areas. In the coming weeks they need to demonstrate that they will go to the Geneva II talks prepared to negotiate a political transition and end the violence."

Open Doors campaign aims to 'turn up the volume' on the crisis and has so far gathered signatures from 250,000 people in over 70 nations for a petition that calls for the safeguard of Christian communities in Syria.

"When a Christian mother in Damascus asks 'Why does no-one care that Christians are dying?' we can tell her there are those who care," Mr Rand said.

"The whole campaign has been based around the fact that we want to see a solution to the crisis in Syria that benefits all the people of Syria."

Echoing the Archbishop of Canterbury's words that, "It's absolutely clear that Christians in Syria are being persecuted," Mr Rand revealed his organisation has evidence that Christians are "particularly vulnerable" and are being "particularly targeted".

Edward Awabdeh, leader of the Evangelical Alliance denomination in Syria has welcomed the prayers from Christians around the globe, saying "many" have 'high hopes' for the nation. But when it comes to his own prayer life, he's confessed he struggles to verbalise his feelings.

He writes: "It seems as if the worst misery, the devilish hell that we are living in, and the love and power from heaven which supersedes everything, are united in my heart …To be honest, I don't know what to pray.

"We are convinced that the Lord is going to do something new in Syria, despite the war and bloodshed. He is at work, and we see that among Muslims and Christians."

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