Father Rodrigo Miranda is a priest from Chile, but it was in Syria, among the oppressed Christian community, that he learned what it really meant to be a priest.
“The witness of the persecuted Christians in Syria is “an antidote for the mediocre and decadent world of our societies,” he told the Spanish daily ABC. “They wake us up to the essential and important things in life.”
Fr. Miranda is a member of the Institute of the Incarnate Word, and lived in Aleppo, Syria from March 2011 until late 2014, when he was forced to leave the country.
Hundreds of thousands of people have died in Syria’s ongoing civil war, while millions have been displaced from their homes. The war has significantly affected church attendance in the outlying areas.
“On the weekends we used to have between 250 and 300 people, now we have 15,” the priest said. “More people go to the churches in the centre of town because they’re more protected. Since we’re a minority, we all know each other. We know by first and last name those who have been killed.”
Though the war has changed life for Syria’s Christians, their faith endures.
“In all the years I was in Syria, I never heard one person complain against God. Just the opposite. They thank God every day,” Fr. Miranda said. “When they tell you the most terrible stories they always finish by saying ‘But thanks be to God we’re alive, we can come to church.’ The Christians in the Middle East have a different temperament. Every time there’s a bombardment, the church is filled up. I don’t see sad faces, although that doesn’t mean they’re not suffering.”
He sees a contrast with the experience of Christianity in the West.
“In the West you’ve got to put on a whole Hollywood style pastoral ministry to attract young people to the parish,” he said. “In Aleppo many times the young people sat down I learned to be a priest in Syria.”to talk about what would happen if the Islamic rebels came into their neighbourhoods to kill them. They asked me: ‘Father, is it true that you’ve got to give your life for Christ?’ These were the things they talked about. I learned to be a priest in Syria.”
- Give thanks that, despite the persecution and ongoing travesty of the war in Syria, the Church is still functioning, and the faith of Christians is strong.
- Pray for Christians in Syria, that their faith will be a witness and testimony to the reality of Jesus Christ to their families and neighbours, and that many will come to find healing and hope for the future through His Gospel and Love.
- Pray for those who continue to live in Aleppo and other besieged cities, for protection, and for food and medical supplies to be able to g et to those who most need them.
- Pray for Christians in these cities, as they are often targeted by the warring factions.
- Pray for peace in Syria, and for the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to shine strong in the current darkness of this nation.
Romans 4 vs 20: “No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God.”
Source: http://www.crossmap.com/news, http://www.persecution.org/2016