A city under siege

Syria’s civil war causing great suffering among Presbyterians and other Christians in Aleppo

November 7, 2012

Nuhad Tomeh, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s regional liaison to Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and the Gulf

Nuhad Tomeh, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s regional liaison to Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and the Gulf, reports that a bomb destroyed about two-thirds of the Presbyterian church building in Aleppo and caused the sanctuary to collapse. —Courtesy of Nuhad Tomeh.

Louisville

Presbyterians and other Christians in Aleppo, Syria, are reeling from extreme violence inflicted on them by that nation’s civil war, according to Presbyterians in that city.

In an email sent to Presbyterian World Mission, members of the Presbyterian congregation in Aleppo reported that areas with a Christian majority are being targeted by rebel forces. Christians have been kidnapped and a Presbyterian church building has sustained such heavy damage that it will likely have to be torn down.

“Christian homes and subdivisions are being taken over by the rebels from where they fire rockets on the Syrian army, and thus create reasons for the army to respond and further destroy Christian homes and institutions and shops,” the Presbyterians said in the email.

Civil war between government and rebel forces began last year after the Syrian government dispatched the army to quell protestors who were demanding the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad. The protests eventually gave way to opposition groups who formed a loosely organized armed rebellion.

On Monday evening, November 5, a bomb destroyed about two-thirds of the Presbyterian church building in Aleppo and caused the sanctuary to collapse, according to Nuhad Tomeh, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s regional liaison to Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and the Gulf. He added the structure is probably beyond repair.

“It is believed that the radical Islamic groups who have been largely responsible for attacking the Christian neighborhoods have done this,” said Tomeh, who spoke with the congregation’s pastor on Tuesday, November 6.

Other sources inside Syria reported that three Christians have been kidnapped in Aleppo. Among the victims is a member of the Aleppo Presbyterian congregation. His abductors demanded a ransom of two million Syrian pounds (almost $29,000). Though the victim’s family paid the ransom, the kidnappers did not release the man.

A doctor was kidnapped and three million of the 50 million Syrian pounds (almost $716,000) demanded by the kidnappers was paid by one of the doctor’s relatives. The kidnappers did not release the doctor and instead held the Orthodox priest who delivered it. Three days later the priest was found beheaded.

The Christian community is also concerned about a Bible Society bookshop salesman who was abducted last week. No ransom demands have been received in connection with the disappearance.

The Evangelical (Presbyterian) Synod of Syria and Lebanon is distributing food, medicine, and other provisions to people suffering from the violence. Among them are more than 100,000 Syrians who have fled to Lebanon.

The synod leadership is asking Christians around the world to pray for peace in Syria and to help with relief efforts. Contributions to aid the relief efforts may be sent to the synod via Presbyterian World Mission.

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