Representatives from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) this week visited partner churches and leaders of the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon to provide encouragement to sisters and brothers in that region. They are participating in an international church consultation organized by the Synod to update partners on the on-going crisis in region.

While visiting churches and refugee camps in Lebanon, the group received an invitation to meet with the President of Syria, Bashar Al-Assad and after consultation with Synod leaders, agreed. The meeting with President Assad occurred Saturday in Damascus, and the PC(USA) representatives accompanied the Syrian Synod leaders to press for peace and a strengthening of democratic institutions. They took a letter from the General Assembly Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Rev. Gradye Parsons.

Presbyterians have a long and rich history in Lebanon and Syria. In 1823, American Presbyterian missionaries planted the church that would grow to become the Synod. Today, the Synod is responsible for all the churches, schools and hospitals that were previously under the mission.

The letter from the Stated Clerk shared the concerns of the church and the world for the people in the region and reaffirmed the General Assembly’s call for a mediated process leading to a non-military/non-violent response. The Stated Clerk urged President Assad to use every effort on behalf of the Syrian people to work for a negotiated solution that can lead to a future of peace and security for all and a strengthening of democracy.

The Stated Clerk extended those wishes to the Geneva peace talks that are scheduled in the coming days, and assured President Assad that he and the Syrian people are in our prayers that a peaceful solution may be found out of this tragic and costly struggle.

World Mission and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance staff, as well as representatives of the Presbyterian Foundation and the Outreach Foundation, were joined by church partners from the Anglican Communion Office from Switzerland and France, and the United Church of Sweden.

The leaders of the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon believe that our continued support of their work is critically important, and that our presence with them in meeting with Syrian government leaders helped the churches of Syria in their witness for peace.

Join with us as we pray for this meeting and the Geneva peace talks. May they be a significant step towards peace in the region and restoration of human rights for the Syrian people.

A prayer for our partners and the people of Syria

God of history,
Spirit of wisdom and grace,
we pray for all who are working for peace
in the tangled conflict of Syria today.
May all of us be strengthened by the hope
of a future built on love and justice for all,
reconciliation through truthful dialogue,
new life through patient diplomacy,
and courageous peacemaking.
In the hope of Christ we pray.