Homs, Syria, April 12, 2013
In the midst of ongoing violence in Syria, the Syrian Orthodox Church is reaching out to people from the city of Homs who lost homes, livelihoods and family members even as its own ministries have been affected.
In Homs, where government and opposition forces have been battling with heavy artillery, civilians, including about 50,000 Christians, fled the city. Many took refuge in neighbouring villages. Even the Syrian Orthodox Church in Homs had to be vacated.
“Almost all people in the Homs area have lost their jobs. Businesses are closed, schools are closed, small shops have no customers left,” said Sarah Adams, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) representative for Syria and Lebanon. MCC partners with the Syrian Orthodox Church, supporting various projects in Syria.
“The villages have been gracious at taking in displaced family, friends and neighbours, but this puts a strain on them,” said Adams.
In April, Bishop Selwanos Petros al-Nemeh, who was displaced from his own home in the Homs church, accompanied Bishop Eustathius Matta Roham of a neighboring community on many visits to comfort those affected by the violence.
They visited a person who had been kidnapped and tortured and met an engineer asking for help because his house had been burned and his job was gone. These situations are examples of thousands of others like it, Bishop Roham wrote in a letter about the trip.
"The most important work for the future is forgiveness and reconciliation among the communities,” he wrote. “Right now people are in need of shelter, food and medicine in order to survive.”
Bishops and the church leaders formed a committee to respond to the most urgent needs in this area. MCC supports this effort and those of other churches in Syria as they provide food, medicine and other support to Christians and Muslims affected by the violence.
MCC allocated $100,500 to the Syrian Orthodox Church to be used through August to support 500 families in Homs and Hama, another city affected by violence. The funds pay for food baskets of milk, rice, oil, burghul, cheese and other items. Some families also received help to pay for utility and medical expenses.
“MCC is a Christian relief, development and peace organization that has assisted thousands of refugees over the course of its 90 year history,” said Phil Schafran, Director of Donor Relations and Communications for MCC British Columbia. “Syrian refugees forced to flee because of civil conflict are the very people that are at the heart of MCC’s ministry and we are privileged to be helping them.”
In March, MCC issued an appeal for $500,000 and relief kits to assist Middle East partner organizations, including the Syrian Orthodox Church, as they provide humanitarian aid and build peace at the community level. MCC partner, Caritas, in Jordan is also providing support to refugees who have fled Syria.
Donations are welcome. Cheques should be made out to MCC BC and marked “Middle East Crisis” and sent to PO Box 2038, 31414 Marshall Road Abbotsford, BC V2T 3T8. Donations can also be made by phone at 604 850 6639 or toll free at 1 888 622 6337 or by clicking on the donate button at the top of this page.