Presbyterians have had a presence in Syria since 1823, and that ministry continues in the midst of the country’s recent turmoil, members of the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA) Board heard Sept. 27.

Working with its partner church ― the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon (NESSL) ― and ecumenical humanitarian aid organizations, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is providing relief to Syrians caught in the violent civil war.

Since 2012, the PC(USA) and its partners have provided 820,000 people with water, food, shelter, psychosocial support and other assistance, said Sara Lisherness, director of the PMA’s Compassion, Peace and Justice ministry.

That ministry area — which includes Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations, the Office of Public Witness, the Self-Development of People program and the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program — has also encouraged advocacy efforts among U.S. Presbyterians.

The Office of Public Witness, for instance, issued an action alert urging Presbyterians to contact their lawmakers and advocate against military intervention in Syria. That alert garnered more than 5,000 responses in three days, making it the largest response ever, Lisherness said.

The PC(USA)’s partners in Syria have stated that military intervention by outside powers would not help the situation and could bring more danger to Christians. It’s important to listen to those living in the situation and to remember that the church work together as one body, said Amgad Beblawi, World Mission’s coordinator for the Middle East, Central Asia and Europe.

“What’s the witness of the church in this context?” he asked. “The church is called to the difficult and often contentious work of just peacemaking.”