The church in Syria — and churches around the world — has a calling to be a prophetic voice and a witness for peace, Syrian partners said in a webinar with Presbyterian World Mission today (Sept. 10).
As the U.S. Congress debates whether to authorize a military strike in Syria, the partners also said that outside interference would cause more problems, especially for Christians in the region.
“We don’t want to see the future in anyone’s hands but our own,” said the Rev. Riad Jarjour, a pastor in the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon (NESSL) and president of the Forum for Development, Culture and Dialogue. “We are to be saved through our own efforts with our Muslim brothers who are here with us in Syria.”
Christians and Muslims in Syria lived in peaceful coexistence for the past 50 years, Jarjour said. Only recently have conflicts broken out among radicals.
“This is foreign to what we have known of Syrian culture and Syrian people,” he said.
The synod is working to develop and maintain relationships with Muslim partners and has seen an increased unity among Christians since 2011.
“This conflict has made all the churches in Syria work together and come together in solidarity,” Jarjour said.
At a recent gathering of Middle Eastern Christian leaders in Jordan, all churches present agreed that a military strike would create more problems. While all churches condemn the use of chemical weapons, the NESSL urges world leaders to await results from the United Nations investigation before rushing to place blame or taking military action.
“Any military intervention would have a detrimental effect on Christians in Syria,” Jarjour said. “No to the strike. Yes to dialogue.”
The 220th General Assembly (2012) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) made the following statements about Syria:
- To support a mediated process of the cessation of violence by all perpetrators,
- To call for outside parties to cease all forms of intervention in Syria,
- To support a necessary and strong role for the United Nations, and
- To refrain from military intervention in Syria
The Rev. Gradye Parsons, stated clerk of the General Assembly, issued a call to action for Syria Sept. 5, urging U.S. Presbyterians to pray for Syria and engage their Congress members.
The Rev. Adeeb Awad, pastor and vice moderator of the NESSL, supported Parsons’ call.
“The church should always stand — even when alone — with a prophetic voice,” he said.
While there are hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees in neighboring countries, the NESSL is more focused on serving internally displaced people, who largely outnumber refugees. In his hometown of Homs, Jarjour said most of the 11 churches have been destroyed and 110,000 Christians have fled.
“We are trying to respond in relief work, in supporting our churches in the area,” he said.
U.S. Presbyterians can help in many ways, including prayer and contacting their elected leaders.
There are several options for giving money to help Syrians: