Report on the Syrian Situation, NESSL Relief & Spiritual Activities-September 2015
Prepared & Written by Dr. Mary Mikhael & Rev. Salam Hanna
National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon
Dear friends and partners in the ministry of Christ,
Greetings and many thanks on behalf of all in the NESSL churches in both Syria and Lebanon. We also convey the appreciation & love of families and individuals who benefit by your prayers and contributions.
1. Qaryatain city under the control of ISIS.
Indeed we continue to be deeply concerned about the escalating events in Syria. No doubt the whole world have newly heard of a town by the name ” Qariytain,” when last week it was attacked by ISIS and detaining as a human shield, 260 Christians.
This is a town in the Homs Provence, towards Palmyra. Few days later, it was announced that tens of the detainees have been moved to the city of “Raqqa.” Again the detainees were given the choice of converting to Islam or paying the Islamic taxes (Jiziah). The city of Raqa has implemented the Sharia Law for quite over two years. Indeed our concern grows deeper. May our God intervene to save the Christians and all who are suffering in Syria? On the other hand, just few days ago, ISIS has demolished a historical Monastery of the Syriac Catholic Church that goes back to the fourth century.
2. The Ancient city of Palmyra
Palmyra continues to be controlled by ISIS. It’s historical heritage facing destruction. The historical Temple of Baal Shameen (4000 years old), which is listed by the UNESCO as an international heritage, has been demolished. Earlier other statues have also been destroyed.
3. Events in other cities
What do we say about Aleppo, Qameshly, Hasakeh, Latakia and its neighborhood, Damascus and its surroundings; all that are receiving shells blindly.
In Latakia, the Islamic house of Fatwa was hit leaving much damage,and two bystanders were killed. It was 50 meters distant from the Presbyterian Church and 50 meters distant from the house of the Pastor.
On April 2015, Edleb city has become totally under control of Nusra Front. This has led to the displacement of the 800 Christian people living there.
In Damascus our Presbyterian Church received a rocket on its roof. We praise God no one was hurt in the church, but the damage is considerable, estimate cost of repair is about $6000.
A prison in the suburb of Damascus received a rocket in the entrance when families were visiting, killing 13 women and wounding over 30. The stories of death and destruction are beyond count. Yet only few days ago the Orthodox Orphanage, next to the Church of the Cross in the middle of the Christian section was also hit.
4. Bleeding of Immigration:
What do we say about the people running away leaving homes and all they had behind, seeking safety and hope for the future in other countries? Criminal smugglers give promises, attracting thousands Syrians despite facing the sea danger where many do not make it.
Where can we find hope? How can we help? It is now the question with no ready-made answer.
According to a latest statistics more than 340,000 entered Europe illegally where the majority are Syrians.
5. NESSL Relief Activities:
NESSL keeps trying its utmost to provide what is possible. All our wonderful partners know that NESSL has been involved in relief work as early back to 2012, with food hygiene and other daily living needs, as well as helping with rent cost of new locations for those who have been displaced. Indeed we hold spiritual conferences in Lebanon and get as many as possible of women, youth, university students, and even pastors trying to uphold people’s faith and hope even in a hopeless situation.
However, as of the beginning of 2015, with the signs of harsh winter, and the lack of fuel and electricity and drinking water, we launched a winter project to help people be able to have electricity, fuel for heating and gas for cooking.
- Winter appeal
While the project will continue till the end of 2015, I am given the following information from the Financial Department office:
Churches receiving help are 20. This includes: Damascus, Homs, Aleppo, Latakia, Mhardeh, Hama, Yazdeah, Qamishly, Kharaba, Ghassanieh, Fairouzeh, Hassakeh, Malkeah, Bludan, Aamar, Edleb, Banias, Ain al Shaara, Hafar, Nabek and some other centers.
Amounts received for the project, $231,320.
Amount spent & will be spent on the project, $ 280,000. (counting the share to be paid to reach the end of 2015).
Amount needed to cover the budget, $ 49.000.
Fuel shares distributed: 1,078.
Shares distributed for Electricity: 935.
We are sure that the above need for both fuel and electricity will be extended beyond the 2015. The Syrian areas/wells of energy are all under the control of ISIS.
And we see no light at the end of the tunnel to give us hope that things will change in the foreseen future.
- On the Spiritual Level
Of course it is essential to take care of people’s spiritual health. Once our spirituality is on trial we lose hope. Thus NESSL has done all that is possible to uplift the people’s faith and hope that our God is one who has compassion and love, and will intervene in time, despite our lack of patience. Our pastors continue to hold worship services, Bible Study, Youth group meetings, Sunday Schools for children and others. However, NESSL is very determined, as mentioned above, to continue holding conferences bringing women, Youth and pastors to Lebanon group by group, to study, fellowship, and pray, and whenever possible NESSL holds conferences in Syria to allow the largest number of participants. Thus for the year 2015 the following conferences have been held:
- A women’s conference attended by 104 women, out of which 77 came from Syria, 5 from Iraq, and also 8 from the USA. Having Presbyterian women come all the way from the USA to be with our women was of great encouragement that we continue to be part of the Church of Christ across the miles. At this point I would like to express deep gratitude to all the US women who took time energy and cost to show solidarity and pray with us.
- Sunday school children, attended by 88 children. Unfortunately no Syrian children were able to attend.
- University Students, held in Syria attended by 70-80 students.
- Leadership training at Hamlin Elderly Center in Lebanon
- Youth conference in Lebanon. 72 youth are attending out of which 30 Syrian youth are present.
Surely we solicit the prayers and supports of all our partners to be able to continue our ministry in the variety of levels.
- Our new ministry project: Schooling Syrian Refugee children.
We are now fixing attention on a great need which is to serve school age Syrian children who are in the camps in Lebanon.
Children denied their normal childhood wondering on the streets to beg for sandwiches to feed themselves, can easily become a lost generation, easy to become arms holders or commit crimes of stealing and violence, easy to be targeted by criminal agents.
At the end of June I sent our partners a short description of a schooling project for about 200 children in the Bekka` valley, in Lebanon, in the village called “Kherbet Kanafar” where NESSL have an old school building.
We are still in presses of getting the ground ready:
- We have already located 60-100 children ages 6-11,and found great enthusiasm on the part of their families which indicates that the number of children will increase by the day.
- We have already identified 8 teachers who are ready to start assessing the level of the children so to determine groups in classes.
- Our building will have space for eight classes, each can hold 15-20 children.
- Some basic furniture is available, such as benches, tables, cupboards, we will complete the needed furniture before we start.
- Some computer sets are available, experts would examine if any can be used or else we will need to purchase the needed set.
- We have made all the necessary contacts with the municipality in the village, and the session of our church there is eager to help in every way.
- Assigned someone to make the Syrian Curriculums available once we estimated the number of classed and levels of the children.
We do hope to start by the end of October once we insured that all the basic needs have been met.
Regarding the financial need; as those who received the project note that we estimated that the cost will be $230,000. We praise God for those who already dedicated some contribution. We have received promises of about $100,000 of the $230,000. We pray that God will move many hearts to continue their support and help us complete the needed amount.
We are also studying the possibility of another needed location in the South and in the North but we have to postpone that until the present one is on the way with satisfaction.
Indeed the need is great. I am told that by the year 2015 there has born 34,000 children. I need to verify this number.
However, I do not think that we exaggerate when we say that the need is far beyond what we think, Glory now and always.
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.