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A Letter on Syria

Dear Folks,

You have likely heard and seen much in the media about the recent tragedy taking place in Syria.  There are many calling for a military response to the atrocities committed by the Assad regime, but I would like to bring to your attention a letter to President Obama by his Eminence Metropolitan Philip that was just released.  Metropolitan Philip is the leader of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America.

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In the letter Metropolitan Philip urged restraint and caution on the part of the US. His Eminence is no stranger to the region having been born and raised in nearby Lebanon.  Syria has deep Christian roots.  The Antiochian Orthodox Patriarchate is headquartered in Damascus, the present day capital of Syria.  As an American I find it valuable to hear, not from an outsider, but from a Christian leader with deep roots in the region and who cares deeply about the region and its people.

For those of us who are US citizens, it is important that we pray for peace in the Middle East and for wisdom for our leaders.  For readers of other nationalities, Orthodox and non-Orthodox, I ask your prayers as well.  Let us all heed the words of the Apostle Paul:

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone–for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.  (I Timothy 2:1-3)

Robert Arakaki

 

12 Comments

  1. Charlie

    It is a cause for grief for me that you distinguish between the Faithful of one nation and those of the rest of the world. Are we not all; well, ought we not all be equally shocked and horrified at the inhumanities – wrong word, I guess, – atrocities (on both sides!)
    Our common weekly Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom contains a a brief petition in the Great Litany summarizes the injunction of ITim 2:1-3 –but I’m quite sure you have in mind something more fervent.

    • robertar

      Charlie,

      It was not my intention to impose national differences on those who visit the OrthodoxBridge. The distinction I was making is that US citizens are in a way accountable for the decisions and actions taken their leaders. Thus, there is a special obligation for Americans to pray for President Obama to have wisdom and discernment.

      While we as Christians have a heavenly citizenship, we also have an earthly citizenship. This can be seen in the opening litany to the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom: “For our country, the President, and all in public service, let us pray to the Lord.” This tells me that if I am an American, I should pray for the President of the United States, Barack Obama; that if I am a citizen of Canada, I should pray for Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

      We should of course pray for the leaders of other countries, but there lies on us a special obligation to pray for our country’s leaders. In an increasingly interconnected world that we live in, we need to avoid division and promote unity and harmony among people. In the Completion Litany is the request that we pray for “All that is good and profitable for our souls, and peace in the world.” As for fervent prayers, shouldn’t all our prayers be fervent?

      Robert

  2. Archpriest John W. Morris

    The rebels that the U.S. Government is providing with arms and other support are heavily infiltrated with Islamic radicals whose goal is to make Syria an Islamic state in which Christians would be reduced to the status of a subject people and have to follow the restraints on their freedom found in Sharia Law. They have killed thousands of Christians, including priests who were ministering to the suffering and dying. They have driven the Christians out of Homs. They kidnapped the Greek Orthodox Metropolitan and Syriac Orthodox Bishop of Aleppo. Last month they tried to assassinate the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch by firing on his cathedral in Damascus while the clergy were distributi9ng food to the needy. Right now they are attacking Maaolouia the site of St. Thekla’s woman’s monastery and orphanage. We must do everything possible to stop Obama from giving aid to the anti-Christian forces in Syria.

    • Burckhardtfan

      Interesting. Can you cite any sources for this? I don’t doubt what you’re saying, I just want to learn more about this.

      • robertar

        Burckhardtfan,

        Good questions. Of course, Fr. John should be the one answering but I’ll give you some links that I found.

        1. Huffington Post published on 4 August 2013, “Kidnapped Syrian Bishops Have Been Held Captive for Over 100 Days.”

        2. Al-Monitor published on 22 June 2013, “Worries Grow About Fate of Kidnapped Syrian Bishops.”

        3. The Telegraph published on 5 September 2013, “Syria crisis: al-Qaeda seizes village that still speaks the ancient language of Christ.”

        4. The Boston Herald published on 4 September 2013, “Al-Qaida-linked Syria rebels hit Christian village.”

        The town of Maaloula is the site of St. Thecla Convent. St. Thecla was a follower of Apostle Paul and is reputed to be buried at the convent. The town is a popular pilgrimage site and is on the tentative list of applicants for UNESCO world heritage status. It is also one of the few places where people still speak Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke. Up till now Christians have lived peaceably with Muslims in Maaloula, but now it appears that sectarian violence and religious extremism has come to the town. The Telegraph article reports that rebels shelled the St. Thecla convent, smashed a statue of the Virgin Mary, and attempted to force a Christian to convert to Islam.

        Read the articles, be informed, and keep praying for peace.

        Robert

  3. Justin

    Thanks for this.

    It seems to me that the US government is going to have itself another war. I am ashamed and saddened- and more than a little angry over this.

  4. Fr. John W. Morris

    Just read the information on this site.

    http://stratrisks.com/geostrat/13310

    That should tell you enough. Why is the US helping a group that has strong ties to Al Quida?

  5. Phil

    I am a Reformed Baptist who follows this blog regularly and am always interested in what you have to say. Though we do not agree often, I am with you all of the way on this one. It bothers me that the killing of Christians in Syria, Egypt, and the rest of the Middle East is being ignored. The President may be a Muslim after all. I don’t see how someone can be so blind unless it was deliberate.

    • robertar

      Phil,

      Thanks. As for political leaders being wrong, this reminds me of David Halberstam’s “The Best and the Brightest.”

      Robert

  6. Eric

    Write your to your representative of Congress to oppose the war. Thank God for the likes of Orthodox Christians such as Rep Justin Amash, as well as others such as Senator Rand Paul, who are explicitly standing up for the interests of Syrian Christians by protesting the proposed attacks.

  7. Charlie

    @robertar: thank you. Ire tends to cloud the vision. As to the “wisdom os the leaders our PM waited until Parliament had been prorogued until October so that he could issue his statement by way of an ‘Order-in Council’ — no discussion, just “that’s the way it’s going to be.’
    In the UK, PM Cameron’s motion in Parilment was defeated by half a dozen votes out of 600(or so.)
    Both instances of “Wisdom” formed are by the Morality of the Media – and the fact that we’re having an election next year so “Boosting the Ballot-box” figures in the equation too.
    So the leaders are an afterthought – say 5-10%; but it is the people – the victims – who are occupy most of my prayers.
    regards in our Lord
    Charlie

    • robertar

      Charlie,

      I agree that we should pray for the victims. There is a Kenyan proverb: “When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.” So we should also pray for the leaders.

      Robert

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