A letter from Nuhad Tomeh in Lebanon
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I have just returned from Lebanon, where one of the gravest refugee crises in our times is unfolding. Out of 22 million Syrians, 2 million have fled or been forced from their homes, congregations and communities. It is estimated that 1 million of those Syrians will flee to Lebanon by the end of the year—a tremendous number of refugees for this small country of 4 million to absorb.
All churches, including the Synod of Syria & Lebanon (the Presbyterian church of Syria and Lebanon), are working overtime to help where they can. In Marj, a small refugees camp in the Beqaa Valley that was visited by the PC(USA) G.A. moderator this last May, our main partner, the Synod, is helping the refugees by providing basic needs. Also they are helping the children through providing school and health kits. In nearby Sadnael, a makeshift camp for refugee farm workers, the Presbyterian church of Zahle installed sewage pipes, providing safe sanitation for nearly 2,000 refugees—for only $300 total! There’s no school here, and the same church is working with the local Lebanese community to rent a building and find teachers.
Within Syria the Synod is providing direct support to help our church members remain in the country where possible. They are striving to keep families and congregations together and provide them with the financial support that best meets their individual needs in this time of crisis. And the Synod has started providing relief baskets of food and non-food items costing $30.00 each to go monthly to 3,000 refugees in Lebanon and displaced in Syria. Families and individual churches of the Synod are doing the distribution.
I take this chance to thank you all for supporting the PC(USA) ministry with these refugees through our partners. The Outreach Foundation and other partners in the U.S.A. and Europe have been very supportive of the Synod ministry with the Syrian displaced and refugees in these difficult times for the Syrian people.
I ask you all to continue supporting our Syrian sisters and brothers with prayers, with financial help, and with peace advocacy. They are being driven from their homes at an alarming rate and we fear a huge Christian emigration from the country where Christ did something significant, calling Paul as the apostle for the world, where the first organized church was established, and where the disciples were called Christians. Remember Antioch was in Syria, and from there Christianity spread.
Your financial help is very much magnified by the exchange rate. We are able to purchase needed materials directly in Lebanon and Syria much more cheaply than in the U.S., saving transportation costs and avoiding the possibility of hijacked goods. Please consider making a gift for Disaster Relief—Middle East through PCUSA/PDA or to the Synod of Syria and Lebanon through the Middle East desk, to ECO # 340202. See the links below.
The surest way to guarantee the safety of our Syrian sisters and brothers is to advocate for peace in Syria—to your elected officials, through your own networks, and among your fellow congregants, reminding them that a military strike by the U.S.A. and the Western countries will not bring peace to Syria, that violence will bring more violence, and remember what happened in Iraq. It is with much gratitude to you, and much hope for a secure future for our Syrian brothers and sisters that I request your continued prayers, advocacy and financial support for this very important ministry.
It is heartbreaking to witness firsthand the dismantling of the Christian community in Syria and to see how our brothers and sisters are coping with losing their homes, their churches, their communities, their families—and their futures. Kelly Hayes-Taitt, a free-lance writer, recently visited and wrote this reflection about Syrian refugee families with whom she met and talked. Please don’t let them lose their hope, the hope of the resurrection. Pray with us all for peace in Syria and for the Syrian people.
Psalm 91 is being read and recited every day by the Presbyterians and other Christians in Syria. Read this psalm and pray it for our sisters and brothers in Syria and the Middle East.
May the Lord Have Mercy.
God’s Blessings on us all.