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Since conflict and violence began in Syria in 2011, at least two-thirds of Christians and two-thirds of health professionals have left the country, according to the Jinishian Memorial Program (JMP), a long-time partner of World Mission and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA).
Seven years ago, as pastor of a Presbyterian church in Costa Mesa, California, I found myself praying for peace to overshadow our broken world. About that time, I became friends with a Presbyterian family who had moved into our community from Homs, Syria. As my friendship with the Jarjours grew, I learned about the crisis in their homeland and how it was impacting their church in Homs. I asked if they would put me in touch with their pastor, at which point he and I began exchanging emails, sharing mutual concerns about our congregations and praying for one another.
The National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon (NESSL) shares with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) not only its deep faith in Jesus Christ, but also a connection to the reformer and insightful theologian John Calvin, who had a special heart to reach God’s people from all backgrounds with the multifaceted gospel message.
In a recent visit to Lebanon and Syria, a delegation from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) had an opportunity to see firsthand the devastation caused by years of conflict. The group also got an up-close view of efforts to breathe new life into Syrian neighborhoods and cities.
Though we often hear only the dark and disturbing stories coming out of the Middle East, on February 26 there was an historic moment of celebration. The Presbyterian Church in Tripoli and the National Evangelical (Presbyterian) Synod of Syria and Lebanon (NESSL) ordained the Rev. Rola Sleiman as the first Arab woman to serve as a Minister of Word and Sacrament.
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance visits displaced residents
Since the Syrian Civil War began in March 2011, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance has been responding to the needs of affected communities in Syria and Lebanon. Working in conjunction with ACT Alliance (Action by Churches Together), members and ecumenical partners have been providing relief to refugees in neighboring countries and to internally displaced Syrians.