The struggle to survive

‘Violence only leads to more violence,’ Syria International Peacemaker says

September 23, 2014

Syrian pastor and peacemaker

Salam Hanna. —Photo by Joseph Williams


Twelve international peacemakers from around the world are visiting congregations, presbyteries and colleges of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Sept. 19-Oct. 12.

They are sharing their stories about church-based ministries in their countries that seek peace justice and pursue peace in the name of Jesus Christ. This year’s international peacemakers come from Colombia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Jamaica, Madagascar, Malawi, Mexico, Palestine, the Philippines, Russia, South Sudan and Syria.

The International Peacemaker program is sponsored by the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program

Rev. Salam Hanna severs as pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Latakia in Syria and as Director of the Relief & Rehabilitation Program for the National Evangelical Synod of Syria & Lebanon (NESSL).   Hanna holds a theology degree from the Near East School of Theology in Beirut, Lebanon, and is a member of the Christian Education Committee of the Fellowship of Evangelical Churches in the Middle East, and of the Syrian Youth Committee at (NESSL.)

What is the most important situation in your country that you will be addressing?

The violence in our country, the humanitarian crisis, and the Christian situation—we know that many of our sisters and brothers are leaving especially in the critical, more dangerous areas.

How are faith communities trying to address the situation?

We are trying to help people survive on various levels.  We are trying to strengthen our churches, encouraging Christians to continue their witness, even at the time of displacement.   We are trying the help Muslims who are also threatened by ISIL (The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant).  

What peacemaking lessons from your situation are you trying to communicate to U.S. Presbyterians?

We are trying to tell you, your country that violence only leads to more violence, and tragedy— especially for the most vulnerable.  The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is now a threat to the entire region.  The ideological message of an Islamic State, led by a Caliphate, and ruled by Sharia Law is an attractive, yet seductive, dangerous message to frustrated extremists—who primarily make their living as fighters.

What is the primary message you want to communicate to U.S. Presbyterians about your country?

Our country longs to make peace through peaceful means.  These are critical times for us, with ISIL there is no negotiation, no peace talks, or debates. 

But I’m talking about are the rest us— and our struggles.  The violence of this war has destroyed our infrastructure. People are leaving for lack of any economic opportunity— except fighting. Often we go without electricity for more than 10-days. 

Increasingly it is difficult to cross the border into Lebanon— Jordan, Egypt, Iraq and Turkey are already closed.  We are becoming like North Korea (note: morbid laughter).    There are more than 3 million refugees in Lebanon— half of those are from Syria. 

Ultimately we hope this human crisis will be solved through peaceful means, among all moderate people.  So far we have not seen any Muslim movement towards reformation, in which they do critical theological reflection, and read their text in new ways. 

There are a few individuals doing this— we encourage people to reach out to them when, and where, they can.

Rev. Salam Hanna will be visiting the presbyteries of Northwest Coast, Cincinnati, Homestead and Lake Erie.

Paul Seebeck is communications strategist for Evangelism and Church Growth ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency and a frequent contributor to Presbyterian News Service.

  1. This is to show my deep appreciation to Rev Salam Hanna who took the time to come to the USA to promote peace and defend the Syria Christians who are being persecuted on a daily basis.

    by Sadik Wardeh

    September 29, 2014

  2. I congratulate Rev Salam Hanna who came to the US to speak about peace in Syria and help Christians have a voice. I understand that he was recently hired as a pastor in the RP church in Lattakia, Syria. I am from Lattakia, Syria born, baptized and raised in this church.

    by Sadik Wardeh

    September 28, 2014

  3. اريد ان اشكر القس الوقور سلام حنا سفير كنيستنا المشيخية بشكل خاص والناطق باسم كل فرد عضو في جسد السيد المسيح في الكنيسة السورية بشكل عام والمتكلم الرسمي باسم الانسانية المعروف عنه بحبه للأنسان وخاصة المتألم والمنكسر والغير متعزي انه يحاول دائما ان يحنو بلطفه ان ينقل الخبر السار بنقله بشارة الانجيل عن محبة الرب يسوع للجميع . فالجنسية والمكانة الاجتماعية والخلفية العرقية خاصة ان هوية الشخص المسيحي بصفته عضوا في جسد الرب تلغي جميع الفروق لان الجميع هم عائلة الله . بكلمتين من القلب عندنا مثل سوري يقول اللي يطلع من ثوبه يعرى فما رأي كنيسة الله في العالم انه هناك من يريد ان ينزع عنا ثياب النعمة الروحية. لا احد يحبذ ترك مكانه بقدر ان يحافظ على سلوكه وتربيته واخلاقه بمعن اصح مسيحيته نحن نعلم انه نبغي وطن سماوي ولكن ان انكسرت النفس بالخطية وفقدت سلامها وتحوَّلت حياة الإنسان إلى دموع، هل يبقى لهذا رجاء . محبتي

    by bassem hanna

    September 28, 2014

  4. I want to thank the Rev. Salam Hanna for his effort to help the Christians in Syria , and promote peace to the torn Syria and the Middle East.

    by Rose G. Hanna

    September 27, 2014

  5. I am Naseem Deeb from Homs, Syria. Thank you Rev.Salam for raising the ignored voice of Christians in Syria. You are doing a great role in that, but hopefully, we need a response. The whole world is listening with more supporting for extremies in Syria. We need a christian Loud Voive against Global governments to STOP FUNDING any type of violence in Syria. That is really the response we need after messaging our voice. Thank you Rev.Salam.

    by Naseem Deeb

    September 26, 2014