Nearly three years of unceasing religious violence in Syria has left the nation’s Christian population in a dangerous and vulnerable position, according to some of the country’s most prominent Christian leaders.
A delegation of church leaders from Syria discussed the current crisis facing Christians and other minorities on Jan. 27 during a several hour visit to the Columbus School of Law and the Catholic University campus.
It was the first delegation of Syrian church leaders to visit the United States since the start of that Middle Eastern nation’s civil war. The event came on the heels of the 30-nation Geneva II peace talks on how to end the sectarian strife. The United States is pushing for a diplomatic settlement between the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and rebels and for the formation of a transition government that does not include Assad.
“In general, the situation in Syria for Christians is a horrible one,” said Rev. Dr. Riad Jarjour, a Presbyterian clergyman from Homs, Syria. “They [the ruling powers] consider us unbelievers.”
Invited to speak at the Columbus School of Law by its Middle East Religious Freedom Project, the Christian clerics sounded the same messages they have offered elsewhere during their five-day trip to Washington.
“We always live in fear of being Islamicized, being forced to leave the country or being killed,” said Rev. Adib Awad, General Secretary of the National Evangelical Synod of Syria.
In meetings with lawmakers, government officials, church leaders and members of the public, the group has attempted to raise awareness of the conflict in Syria, and to explore concrete steps that can be taken by the global community to help protect Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities there.
“Our Middle East Religious Freedom Project is specifically aimed at outreach to the beleaguered Christian communities of the Middle East and North Africa,” explained Catholic University law school Professor Robert Destro, director of the project. “One of its goals is to introduce the leaders of these communities and their people to the Christian communities of the United States.”
The visit of the church leaders to the law school was covered by EWTN, the Global Catholic Television Network.
Delegation leaders included:
- Rev. Adib Awad, General Secretary of the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon
- H.E. Bishop Elias Toumeh, The Orthodox Bishop of Pyrgou-Syria
- Rev. Dr. Riad Jarjour, a Presbyterian clergyman from Homs, Syria, formerly General Secretary of the Middle East Council of Churches
- H.E. Bishop Dionysius Jean Kawak, Metropolitan of the Syrian Orthodox Church
- His Grace Bishop Armash Nalbandian, Primate of the Armenian Church of Damascus