Letter Offers Faithful Reassurance to Christians in Strife-Torn Areas
April 6, 2016
Christians in the Middle East greet one another by saying, “Almaseh Kam”—“The Christ is risen”—from Easter Sunday until Advent, and I greet all of you, dear brothers and sisters, with this same resurrection assurance! In the week that follows Easter I normally read (and preach) the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13–35), and I would encourage all of you to look again at this familiar passage. I think of this event as “the restoration of resurrection hope.”
This year, especially, with what is happening in the Middle East, particularly in Syria, I find this story so appropriate to share with the Christians of Syria, as a reminder that Christ “shows up” to us, with us, and for us even in the darkest and saddest of times. And I would like to think that it might be equally appropriate to share it with you, my friends, as so many of you carry a burden of concern for Christian presence and witness in Syria and beyond. You are part of the effort to restore hope to the church in Syria, through your intercessory prayers and your emails, which are full of loving concern, as well as your contributions that support families displaced by the violence.
Christians in Syria have great anxiety about the future because they see what has happened in other parts of the Middle East, where in the aftermath of upheavals that have brought about new governments the church has not always found itself to be in a good situation. Half a million Christians have been displaced from Iraq. In Egypt more radical forms of Islam have arisen and now have political power. So we must all be much in prayer that a peaceful solution can be found and that a vibrant national dialogue will begin that can give freedom to all and protection for fragile minorities. If that were to happen, the very real experience of Christ’s passion could, indeed, lead to “the restoration of resurrection hope”!
I would like to share one story of a young Presbyterian pastor serving a small church in a troubled area in Syria. He was so scared and fearful for his life that he decided to leave the small town and the church he was pastoring and seek a safer place. But not long after reaching that place of safety, he discovered that he could not live with his decision and decided to go back to his church just before Holy Week, to be with his congregation and to give witness to the Hope of the resurrection.
The Presbyterian Church of Syria and Lebanon (known as the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon) appealed to its partners around the world to help them in coming alongside families who have been affected by the violence in Syria—people who have had to leave their homes, jobs, and schools. From its own budget, the synod designated a large amount for an immediate response to help those families with rent, food, medicine, school fees, and other relief items.
The PC(USA), through Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, made an immediate grant to the synod and is also appealing to congregations to give through One Great Hour of Sharing. This will benefit the synod as well as other ecumenical partners. The Outreach Foundation, a strategic mission partner of the PC(USA), has provided a gift of more than $32,000 to the synod and continues to seek contributions. Local congregations also have been generous, as have partners in Europe. The synod estimates that about 150 families in its area have been affected by the violence. May we, along with them, experience the “Emmaus encounter” as our resurrected Christ restores hope. He alone is Lord of the future, and we can be assured that he awaits us at the end of whatever road we are compelled to walk.
In Christ, Nuhad Tomeh
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray
John 20:19–31 (NIV)
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.