AKRON, Pa. -- 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 taking refuge in neighboring 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, based in Beirut. MCC partners with the Syrian Orthodox Church, supporting various projects in Syria.
“The villages have been gracious at taking in displaced family, friends and neighbors, but this puts a strain on them,” said Adams, who is from Westerville, Ohio.
In April, Bishop Selwanos Petros al-Nemeh, who also was displaced from his 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 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.”
Together, bishops and the church leaders formed a committee to respond to the most urgent needs in this area. Mennonite Central Committee 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.
In March, MCC issued an appeal for $500,000 and relief kits to assist Middle East partner organizations 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.
To donate or to learn more about MCC’s response to the Middle East crisis, visit mcc.org/middleeastcrisis.
Linda Espenshade is news coordinator for MCC U.S.