Syria’s Evangelicals

Posted by on Dec 14, 2010 in Outreach Messages | Comments Off on Syria’s Evangelicals

“Passionate to know, live and teach God’s Word, Jesus (Jn. 1:1)– Fr. Angelo on recent Economist article regarding Syria’s Evangelicals

“Who best knows, lives and teaches the Word of God, we Orthodox Christians? If not, this is our calling”

Here’s yet another reason why we Orthodox must not just rely on our lineage but God’s grace, which is made manifest through a life of repentance that brings fruits making one worthy of being called a “struggling Christian.” How else can this happen though, but by a change of heart (Rev. 21:5)? — something that automatically takes place as one continually learns, lives and shares The Faith, normal things for a true believer. As St. John Chrysostom of yesteryear and Metropolitan Avgoustinos of Florina, Greece of most recent times both remind us, we are called to know the Scriptures better than sincere and often times, doing much good yet still, not in full proper mindset heterodox                                                                     .

In our entertainment crazed times, a good place to begin catching up so we might win the race before us (I Co. 9:24) is by fulfilling the invitation, “My son, give me your heart and let your eyes keep to My ways” (Pr. 23:26). As well, if we have not yet purchased one, because it helps give us the mind of the fathers, get the Orthodox Study Bible today [link to w credit to our pay pal acct? ] and place knowing this book before all else. For more on the connection between the Bible and the Church, read here [link to accompanying Transfiguration doc. on]

Don’t try too hard: Protestant Christians are under rare fire                             — Nov 18th 2010 | Damascus

St Paul, an unlicensed Syrian convert

SECULAR Syria has long been one of the freest places in the Middle East to practise religion. But a recent crackdown on Christians, about a tenth of Syria’s people, is causing jitters. Several buildings that hold Christian services have been closed for not being officially sanctioned as churches. Foreigners serving Protestant churches have been told their visas will not be renewed because of a decree banning them from working for injeeli, as Protestant churches are known. In the summer several church camps were cancelled. The measures have been taken solely against the Protestant churches, which cater for refugees from Sudan and Iraq and expatriate workers, as well as for Syrians. Tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have fled to Syria since attacks on them following the American invasion of Iraq in 2003; recent massacres have sent others packing.

Syrian officials say the measures have been taken because the offending churches have been proselytising, often with the help of foreigners. The World Council of Churches acknowledges that since the invasion of Iraq an influx of refugees into Syria has encouraged foreign evangelists, mainly Americans and South Koreans, to spread the gospel. American outfits such Reach Global, the missionary arm of the Evangelical Free Church of America, admit to giving cash and theological support to Christians in Syria, to the extent that they are officially allowed to. But independent local churches, all of them licensed by the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon, have been hit, too. Father Nadim Nassar, a priest, says that tension in the region has made life harder for all Protestant groups. “Protestantism has long been viewed as an extension of the West and all Protestant groups have been affected by a backlash against them.”

But the main reason for the clampdown is that Orthodox and Catholic leaders, disgruntled by the success of these new churches, have complained to the government. Converting Muslims to Christianity is illegal, but the churches have also had an understanding that they should not woo each others’ members. Enthusiastic Protestants seem to have flouted that unwritten rule. “We have enough churches—but the Protestants are stealing our sheep,” says an Orthodox pastor, who asked not to be named.

The government does not discriminate against Christianity in particular. It wants to keep Syria secular and religiously harmonious. Moreover, it is conscious that the regime is headed by members of the minority Alawite Muslim sect, and is wary of challenges to its rule by any religious group, such as the Muslim Brotherhood. It is therefore quick to clamp down on zealous behaviour. In the past two years Islamic schools have been more tightly regulated. Female university students have been forbidden to wear the niqab, covering the entire body. Freedom of religion in Syria has its limits, sighs an Orthodox leader. “There is freedom to practise your religion but not yet to choose it. You are what you are born into.”

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