Syrian church leaders have urged renewed prayer ahead of the Geneva II Conference on peace in Syria, scheduled to begin on 22nd January.
Gregory III Laham, Greek Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and Jerusalem, has called on Christians worldwide to join with Syrian Christians in praying for the success of this conference. He urged that we “pray for true reconciliation in Geneva II,” noting that “the key to the success of Geneva II is faith-based, human, cordial, national, and truly Syrian reconciliation.”
Violence continues to affect parts of Syria, causing death, injury and trauma together with severe restrictions on access to food and medical care. Some estimate that as many have died due to the humanitarian crisis as have been killed in the violent conflict. Atrocities continue to be committed by various participants to the crisis.
The conference seeks to build on the Geneva Communiqué of 30th June 2012 in which a number of countries called for the establishment of a ‘transitional government’ including representatives of President Assad’s government and representatives of opposition groups. Numerous difficulties confront the Geneva II conference including clarity over who truly represents those Syrians opposed to the present government and which countries should be invited to participate.
On 17th January the World Council of Churches issued a statement compiled by the participants of a two-day meeting, including Syrian church leaders, which urged all delegates to the Geneva II peace conference to “pursue an immediate cessation of all armed confrontation and hostility within Syria,” called for all parties to release detained and kidnapped persons and urged the UN Security Council to implement measures ending the flow of weapons and foreign fighters into Syria.
Kidnapping remains prevalent and amongst those being held at present are three priests (Fr. Michel and Fr. Maher, missing since 9th February 2013, and Fr. Paolo, held since early August 2013), two bishops (Metropolitan Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim and Metropolitan Boulous Yazigi, held since 22nd April, 2013), and a number of nuns from Ma’aloula (held since early December, 2013).
Amidst the general patterns of conflict there continue to be a few specific cases of religiously-motivated persecution of Christians. For example, on 8th January two Christians, Fadi and Firas, were ambushed by militants who shot at their vehicle whilst they were travelling outside Homs. Fadi was killed and Firas was left for dead. When the militants saw that Fadi was wearing a cross they proceeded to decapitate him. Firas was subsequently able to escape.
Let us join with Syrian Christians in praying that:
a. The conference will lead to an end to the crisis in Syria
b. All delegates will prioritise the needs of the Syrian people, and not their own agendas
c. All who are bereaved will know the comfort of Jesus, and the wounded and traumatised His healing and presence
d. The needs of the millions of Syrians displaced either internally or abroad will be adequately met
e. Those detained or kidnapped will be released
f. Those that seek to use violent means would know the Spirit’s conviction of sin, and respond to the Father’s offer of new life through the work of the Son.
Source: Middle East Concern