Syria will be focus of worldwide day of prayer on Saturday

Najla Kassab (Photo: WCRC/Koopmans)

Najla Kassab (Photo: WCRC/Koopmans)

The World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) is joining churches around the world in prayer for Syria tomorrow in response to an appeal for prayer for the people and churches of Syria, for children affected by armed conflict in the country and for two Syrian Orthodox Bishops kidnapped in April.

Members of WCRC’s executive committee who are meeting in Ghana will include WCRC’s member church, the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon (NESSL) in their prayers.

The appeal issued by the Near East Initiative, a worldwide network of churches, asks for prayer on Saturday 11 May.

WCRC executive committee member, Najla Kassab, says prayers will be welcomed by Syrian Christians who are suffering with other Syrian citizens from the effects of armed conflict between the government and its opponents that erupted in 2011.

“Knowing that WCRC representatives from over 20 countries are hearing stories of what church members are enduring in Syria and are responding in prayer will make Christians feel less isolated,” says Kassab, an educator whose responsibilities include working with NESSL’s Syrian parishes from her office at the church’s headquarters in Beirut, Lebanon.

In April, two bishops of the Orthodox Church were kidnapped in Aleppo. Efforts to secure their release are ongoing. Kassab reports that Christians see the kidnapping as a threat to Christian presence in the country. Many have fled the violence by crossing into neighbouring countries: others have become internal refugees seeking safety in other parts of their war torn country. Prior to the outbreak of the conflict, Christians represented 10 per cent of the population of the predominantly Muslim country and NESSL’s membership was an estimated 4000.

Kassab reports that three of her church’s 20 Syrian parishes have sustained damage from the fighting over the past two years.

In March, a parish church in Aleppo was bombed. The remaining 70 parishioners now meet for weekly worship services in an apartment. The congregation of a church in Homs that was bombed in 2011 has now dispersed. When a bomb hit the parish church in Ghasanieh, a village near Aleppo, the young pastor moved to nearby Homs. He is now one of two displaced NESSL clergy serving internally-displaced refugees in Homs.

Christians in the war torn city are worshipping in a local nursing home run by NESSL in an area near sites of repeated armed confrontations. The nursing home cares for elderly people from all faiths. A pastor and a Catholic nun serve the residents whose home has sustained collateral damage on several occasions from shrapnel and bullets in nearby fighting.
Pastor Moufid and Sister Valentine have refused to seek safety and remain to care both for the nursing home residents and for Christians who arrive in the city when their homes and churches in other communities are damaged or destroyed.

The two pastors based in Homs also serve communities near the city to help meet the needs of those who have stayed behind. This includes providing medicine, lodging, and spiritual support. Supplies and finances for the relief efforts are provided by local Christians, aid agencies and congregations in Lebanon who send food and clothes with the clergy when they travel back and forth over the border between the two countries.

The full message from the Near East Initiative follows.


Syria: May 11th Day of Prayer for Syria
In an extraordinary show of unity of Christian denominations – Churches in Syria will unite in prayer on Saturday 11th May and are asking their brothers and sisters around the world to pray and fast with them.

‘As Christians in Syria continue to suffer from the devastating effects of the two-year-old civil war including killings, kidnappings, homelessness, lack of food and shelter and closing of schools; they are also seeing that God’s hand is at work as all denominations are joining in passionate prayer.’ said Open Doors representative Steve Ridgway. ‘Christians in Syria know only Jesus can bring redemption and true peace. I urge you to take time on May 11 to pray with Syrian believers for their country.

Please pray for:
– The release of two Orthodox bishops, kidnapped in April, and other Christians who are missing;
– Counseling for children who have been traumatized by violence;
– Return of peace;
– And for God to watch over the third of the population who are either refugees outside the country or homeless inside Syria. (Zec.9:8)
For more information……

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