The National Evangelical Synod الســينـودس الإنجيــلي الوطــنــي of Syria and Lebanon في سورية ولبـــنان
To all the friends of the NESSL Rabieh Nov 8, 2013
Dear friends and partners in the service of God,
Greetings to you in the precious name of our Lord. Indeed we address you as part of the family of God, and members of the Body of Christ.
We praise God who in Christ has given us the hope of eternal life. Our prayer is that you all be blessed and guided by the Spirit of God.
Friends, it has been a while since I communicated with you on behalf of the NESSL, due to the fact that I was visiting with churches in the USA since September 7, I would like to express deep gratitude to all the friends and churches that received me and gave me the honor of sharing the ministry of the NESSL among the Syrian refugees.
I know all of you have received the first report of the activities of our new relief program as written by the Rev. Salam Hanna, the director of the program.
Indeed violence continues to drive many Syrians out of the country, and create larger groups of displaced inside the country. And there seems not to have much hope that this tragedy soon comes to an end. And as just been declared by the UN report almost half the Syrians now have either become refugees, displaced, and/or have lost home, job, or is able to afford living expenses.
However, the fear of the Christians is growing by the hour as some Christian communities and ancient Christian villages are being targeted with no shame. Christian communities have nothing to do with violence against anybody, rather they have been advocating peace, reconciliation, and pleading for an end to this madness going on for almost three years. Yet they have been attacked, their churches attacked and destroyed, some priests and even bishops have been kidnaped or disappeared. Even the Papal embassy in Damascus has received rockets fired by those groups.
This week Beirut witnessed a special meeting by the Christian leaders of all traditions to affirm that the Christian community has been in the Middle East, back to the early church history, a community that experienced much suffering and continued to be grounded in the soil of the Middle East. It will continue to witness to its faith in Christ until Christ comes back in His Glory. This meeting was triggered by the intense attack on Christian villages in Syria in recent months.
Ancient town Maaloula, North of Damascus, was surrounded, and then invaded by armed groups who went into churches, monasteries, and homes, threatened, and broke icons, crosses causing the residents to flee, until the Syrian army drove them out, and in the process much destruction took place.
The town al-Raqqa, near the Turkish boarders, faced similar fate when churches were attacked and destroyed, and its Christian community had to flee. On the other hand two other ancient towns, Sadad, and Hafar were besieged and destroyed, thousands managed to flee, yet thousands,(1500 families) were held hostage and used as human shields 21-28 October when the Syrian army drove them out. During those days children, women, and old people were killed. In an area not far, three armed militant got the statue of the Virgin Mary from a church to the street and said: this cannot be permitted in the land of Islam, only God's religion is allowed. They broke the statue to pieces and stepped on the pieces. This was shown on TV screens. Other criminal stories are told all over as to how those groups express hatred for the Christians and other minority communities.
On the first of November the NESSL committee on Ecclesial and Spiritual Affairs had its regular meeting to discuss the needs of congregations, the following story was told:
"When the Armed groups invaded Maaloula, three armed men went to a home where a man who was crippled was with his sister. It was clear that this is a Christian home with icons.
They asked the man, are you Christian? He said, yes. They said to him if you become a Muslim now you will live. He said, no! I am a Christian and that I will die. They shot him with three shots and killed him. They shot the sister who did not die." The person who told the story ended it by saying: "Like the early Christians who went to death for the sake of Christ with happiness.
During the meeting there was a short report as to what some of our congregations in Syria are experiencing:
Homs, the church is completely destroyed, the congregation worships in several locations.
Aleppo, church is destroyed; congregation meets in the Pastor's home. Rev. Nsair, shows deep commitment despite the fact that he was threatened.
Qamishly, relatively stable, 20% have immigrated.
Hassake, church and school work normally. However the pastor seems under pressure to immigrate.
Kharaba, the curch is occupied by the displaced.
Ghassanieh, not functioning, 80% have moved to Latakieh, there they hold a worship service on Saturday, and meet on Sunday with the Latakieh church.
Latakieh, relatively stable. Hosting many displaced.
Malkieh, relatively stable, but the pastor has left to Germany.
Oumar, under pressure, partial services
While several of our congregations have lost many of its members, other congregations added members of those who became displaced.
Dear friends, I have shared with you our situation, in order to urge you for prayers to God for His mercy, compassion and peace.
Surely, every day the church receives more requests for help and we have to respond. Help us continue our ministry which is yours as well.
Thank you for all you have been to us in this tragic situation.
To God be the glory.
Mary Mikhael, on behalf of the NESSL.