Selimian is President of the Armenian Protestant Community in Syria and provides aid to numerous families inside and outside the congregations in his country, which has been affected by civil war and the coronavirus crisis. Jarjour is a member of the National Protestant Synod of Syria-Lebanon (NESSL) and president of an NGO which is active in the dialogue between the congregations of Beirut.
Lebanon, which had already been heavily affected by large numbers of Syrian war refugees, has been paralyzed by a government crisis for more than two years – a crisis which was exacerbated by the explosion in the port of Beirut in 2020. Moreover, the country has been burdened by an unprecedented economic crisis, during which the national currency has lost 90 percent of its value.
The war is not yet over in Syria, especially in the north of the country, where several congregations of the Protestant churches are located. After ten years of war, economic sanctions are also hitting the population hard.
The presence of strong Christian communities is an important factor in maintaining cohesion in these countries. However, due to high levels of immigration and the lack of all essential goods, the churches have been weakened. In the meantime, they continue to support the entire population with health, education and humanitarian projects.
Their partners include Swiss Church Aid (HEKS) and DM – through its network Christian Action in the East. ‘Any help is welcome, however modest it may be,’ emphasized Pastor Selimian. ‘We hope that the churches in Switzerland and their aid agencies will remain our loyal partners during this transition period.’
In an interview with the PCS, the pastors reported as eyewitnesses from their countries not only on the political, church and humanitarian situation, but also about their hopes. Selimian’s church is heavily involved in youth work, in order to give young people a good start in life. His church was destroyed and rebuilt six times. ‘If the church is not rebuilt, people’s hope is lost,’ said Pastor Selimian. His belief sustains him: ‘I don’t allow myself to be depressed. In the fire of destruction we always see the light of the Resurrection.’
Rita Famos expressed both her personal solidarity and the solidarity of the PCS with the two pastors. ‘The suffering of the people in these two countries, which has lasted for so many years, touches us and concerns us,’ she said. ‘The PCS wishes to ensure – through church contacts on location – that aid continues and benefits a broad segment of the population through the churches.’
During their short stay in Switzerland, the pastors met several groups of church representatives from Bern, Vaud and Geneva, as well as officials of the WCC and the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA).