Update on Syria from NESSLWritten by Dr. Mary Mikhael*
September 5, 2014
We Greet you in the name of Christ the Lord of hope and love.
Thank you sincerely for your prayers for, and partnership in our ministry. Indeed we continue to be in urgent need for your solidarity and support in the face of all what is happening in this part of our world. Sadly we feel that evil is moving around killing and causing destruction on every level and in so many places.
Syria is moving from one tragedy to another new every day, and hope for the light to shine there, seems far away. Places that have been secure and quiet, like Mhardeh, near Hama, a stable Christian town, has come under attack, and received shells and threats by the rables, especially a neighboring town has been taken by jabhat annusra. Our Presbyterian church there is one most active and among our largest churches, in a town with a majority of orthodox Christians. All are now under lots of pressure. We are deeply concerned and surely frightened for all in the town.
Areas by the Iraqi and Jordanian boarders seem to have all become under the ISIS [Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or simply the Islamic State], witnessing mass and open killing. And the stories of criminal killing and then hanging on crosses have no end. Just few days ago after the Tabka airport, by the Euphrates dam, was taken by ISIS, hundreds of Syrian soldiers were massively killed. That, beside people becoming displaced by the thousands.
The tragic events against the Christians and other minorities in the North of Iraq is most shocking despite the fact that the Iraqi authorities are doing the best they can. Again stories continue to fill news papers. Like tens of Yazedi women, kidnapped, sold, and forced to marriage with ISIS men in the Syrian areas under ISIS.
Lebanon has its share of the daesh crimes in Ersal and the areas by the Syrian shared borders. A group of Lebanese soldiers are still in the hands of ISIS and/or al-Nusra Front. Violence against the army breaks out almost daily. That beside the rumors against Christians, Shia, or others, go on. On the walls of some churches in Tripoli, in the north, found writings like "ISIS is coming soon." And burning the flag of ISIS and lifting up crosses and burning them, all make the Lebanese deeply concerned and disturbed and frightened.
Of course the big question is, What can be done to bring back hope and normal state of living to this part of the world? Indeed, over and above the million plus of Syrian refugees in Lebanon it is said that now Lebanon have seven thousand Iraqi refugees, all are taken care of by the Caldean and Assyrian Churches here. Top Christian leaders have met more than once and issued statements of concerns and urged leadership of the world to hasten to action to prevent crimes against the Christians who have lived in this part of the world for two thousand years. For them to be asked to convert to Islam, pay tax, leave or be killed all are beyond logic and surely inhuman and far from any reason specially that the Christian community has not been involved in any kind of violence. A group of top Christian leaders visited Irbil to show real solidarity and unity, and deep human concern with all those who were violated.
Indeed promoting peace and justice and human rights is a basic mission of the church. However, the greatest burden on the heart of the church has been to get on the ground to stretch hand to the refugees and the displaced to provide for their needs, and help them not to loos hope despite hopeless circumstances.
The National Evangelical [Presbyterian] Synod of Syria and Lebanon (NESSL) Relief Work
We praise God for all who have been part of our ministry doing relief work mainly among the internally displaced. Indeed for over three years NESSL has been involved in providing for hundreds of families, and has distributed thousands of food, and hygiene boxes. It also provided thousands of vouchers to pay rent, buying heating fuel, gas for cooking, medicine, water, electricity, and other daily needs.
Financial help despite its urgency spiritual upholding is also basic to our ministry. Before I come to the report about financial relief let me tell in summery form how we try to provide opportunities for spiritual growth and nurturing hope and faith despite all.
Internally, in Syria, the few churches that continue normal worship services are mostly in Damascus, Latakia, Homs (outside the sanctuary), Fairozeh, Yasedea, Aleppo (outside the Sanctuary), Qameshly, Hassakeh, Banias, Umar El Hosen, and Hafar. Congregations that are displaced worship wherever they are relocated are: Malkea, Idleb, Ghassaneah, Kharaba. Ofcourse, displaced groups in the Christian valley, Mashta, Safita, worship irregular, and are periodically visited by pastors to listen to their needs, pray with and sometimes hold H.C. together.
NESSL Committees, in charge of conferences have been very active bringing youth groups, women's groups, children, and university students, pastors and elders, each group for a week to the conference center, teaching biblical themes, singing, praying, and having good times together, enhancing fellowship and nurturing faith in Christ. It is indeed moving and deeply pleasant to see the enthusiasm among the Syrians who come, and also the large number that participate in each of those groups. Thanks be to God for such wonderful ministry. All the themes discussed speak to the experiences of the groups and tackle their questions.
Indeed, we need much prayers to be able to help strengthen faith and hope. Please click here for some pictures.
On behalf of all the Syrian refugees and internally displaced who received help, and the whole NESSL community I would like to express deep gratitude and praise God for all the partners and local churches and individuals who stretched hands and supported this ministry. To all the following churches and organizations that have been the basic and major supporters of this great ministry we express our deep gratitude. All have been empowering our ministry among those in great need for help. Some of those would have not been able to have bread for their children without such support. We praise God for all our partners, even as the need remains, and grows. May all be richly blessed. Indeed God shows love and compassion through God's People.
Sincere gratitude and deep appreciation to all who are part of the ministry of the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon in these trying times. Friends, the need is growing as the number of the needy is increasing. We appeal in the Name of the loving God to you all to continue praying for peace and justice and for God's intervention to cast out our fear and give hope to the hopeless. We appeal for your support so to be able continue our relief ministry. To God Be the Glory.
*Dr. Mary Mikhael is a staffperson for the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon, the immediate past president of the Near East School of Theology, and a former meber of the Common Global Ministries Board of Directors.
The United Church of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) continue to offer support for the work of many partners in the region to provide humanitarian response to the needs of Syrian refugees. Please consider supporting the work of Global Ministries' partners' relief efforts in and around Syria. You can do that through One Great Hour of Sharing (UCC), the Week of Compassion (Disciples), or through Global Ministries directly.
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