“We don’t want to become refugees, but to live in peace and with full citizens’ rights and duties in our own land”, says the General Secretary of the Fellowship of Middle East Evangelical Churches, and resident of Homs, to the General Assembly of the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe.
Rosangela Jarjour has drawn attention to the dramatic predicament of Christians in the Middle East. “I dream that one day, when I wake up, I will be able to say ‘I bring good news’, but for the time being that is just not possible”, said the General Secretary of the Fellowship of Middle East Evangelical Churches on Friday 21st September to the General Assembly of the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe (CPCE) that is currently meeting in Florence. The situation for Christians has “never been worse”, and the future for Christians in the Middle East is acutely endangered, explained the General Secretary, who herself lives in Homs, Syria. Everyday life for Christians, who in the past were able to lead quite secure lives, is now fraught with fear. Christians are now finding that they are no longer allowed to practise their religion and that their civil rights to freedom and free speech “are constantly violated, whilst previously secular matters are consumed by Islam.” More than 50,000 Christians have fled Egypt alone since the onset of the revolution there. Her own family has been forced to leave their home town of Homs. “Christians have lost their homes, livelihoods and churches and been the victims of widespread looting, destruction and arson”, Jarjour reported, showing delegates shocking images of decimated churches in Syria.
Jarjour called upon western Churches “to raise their prophetic voice and not simply follow their governments’ lead”. “In Syria’s case too it is imperative to seek the real truth of matters and look beyond the pictures shown on TV”, implored the General Secretary of the Fellowship of Middle East Evangelical Churches, that in all represents some 2 million Protestants from 17 Lutheran, Reformed and Anglican churches. The feeling amongst Christians in the Middle East is that “the West has simply forgotten them”. “If things don’t change”, warned Jarjour, “any remaining Christians will be wiped out.”
The demonstrations in Syria had begun quite peacefully, but quickly turned violent. “Many of us don’t believe that this stems from our fellow countrymen”, she pointed out. At first, Christians and Muslims took to the streets together, but as the level of violence increased, so the Christians felt forced to retreat. “This was no longer a popular movement, but instead Syria has become the battlefield for various external forces”, the General Secretary declared, voicing her conviction that “democracy cannot be established by means of weapons and money from Saudi Arabia or Qatar”.
“Not a single Christian” approves of these developments in Syria, she said, her personal desire being “for a peaceful solution. All we ask from whoever ends up ruling Syria is that they grant us Christians basic freedom, security and peace.” The Syrian national, who is currently based in Beirut at the head office of the Fellowship of Middle East Evangelical Churches, is keen to emphasise the strong desire of many Christians to stay in their home country: “We don’t want to become refugees, but to stay where we belong – in dignity and in possession of full civil rights and duties.” Until Christians “learn of the eventual new leaders’ agenda and what treatment they will face in the future”, many of those who were able to live undisturbed lives under Assad’s regime will not wish to venture into uncertain terrain.
The General Assembly of the CPCE had keenly awaited this particular address by General Secretary Jarjour. “The CPCE is part of a wide international network”, said its President Thomas Wipf: “By inviting Ms Jarjour to the most comprehensive assembly of European Protestantism we wanted to demonstrate our collective allegiance with the Protestant Churches in the Middle East.”