Syria and Lebanon are a long way from the United States. It can be easy to feel removed from the violence there affecting nearly 10 million people, among them, 3 million Syrian refugees who have fled to neighboring countries.
But to remain silent and immobile as people of faith is to allow violence to continue. That is why the taking part in the upcoming Syria-Lebanon Network meeting is so important – whether you’ve been involved missionally in the region before or not.
“The role of the church as a peacemaker is very important,” Amgad Beblawi, Presbyterian World Mission’s Area Coordinator Middle East, Europe, and Central Asia, said. “After three years of fighting and crisis, the Church can be effective where politics and politicians have failed. The ministry of peacemaking and reconciliation is the believers’ calling. We do this in partnership with Syrian Presbyterians and all Syrian Christians.”
Presbyterians have been in the region since 1823 – establishing churches, schools, hospitals. Beblawi says he knows PC(USA) constituents care but adds “we now need to be more explicit in expressing that care and support.”
Elmarie Parker is the PC(USA) Regional Liaison to Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Iran. She’s based in Beirut, Lebanon and believes the meeting – taking place in Louisville, KY, April 3-5 – is an extension of strengthening a ministry of incarnation.
How to take part
To register for the Syria-Lebanon Network meeting or to get more information, email Lacey Gilliam.
Or, simply click here to see the full schedule of events, invite others, register, or get driving directions.
“It’s about being with our sisters and brothers in Christ during times of both great joy and times of great struggle and costly sacrifice,” Parker said. “The Network will allow Presbyterians in the United States to make their incarnational presence visible to the church in Syria-Lebanon through advocacy work, educational opportunities, and supporting the ministry and mission work of our partners in Syria and Lebanon.”
“Right now, Lebanon has one refugee, whether Syrian, Palestinian, or even Iraqi, for every four Lebanese,” Pauline Coffman, temporary convenor of the Syria-Lebanon Mission Network and a just peace advocate living in Oak Park, IL, added. “Our hope is that this meeting will galvanize the PC(USA) to even greater support of Syrian and Lebanese Christians suffering from the conflict. We grieve with them for the terrible losses of communities, church buildings, neighborhoods, and historic sites.”
The meeting will connect participants to one another and to those they’re seeking to walk with and support. Those who attend the meeting can expect to hear from and get to know representatives of the National Evangelical Church of Syria and Lebanon and to be part of a dynamic discernment conversation that further hones the values, vision, and work-group plan for the Syria-Lebanon Mission Network.
“It is a planning meeting for involvement. Attendees should come away with a plan of action,” Beblawi said. “Presbyterian World Mission will support, guide, equip, and inform participants but, at the end of the meeting, the network participants will be able to plan their own activities and have their own position on things, working together for even more effective mission.”
A Presbyterian History in Lebanon and Syria
Presbyterians have a long history in Syria and Lebanon that dates back to the early 1800’s. We have a strong Presbyterian Church in these countries led by a committed Synod leadership. There are nearly 40 Presbyterian congregations between the two countries, and historically, the larger and more missionally active congregations are in Syria.
Several of those congregations continue their service of worship, ministry, and now relief work in the midst of their buildings having been destroyed. Together they bear witness to the people of Syria and to the world that the church is not the building, but those who follow Jesus and seek to demonstrate his way of love and peace in the worst of circumstances.