Moderatorial Statement During Plenary Debate
Of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland
On an Amendment to the World Mission Council Report
Relative to Syria and Lebanon
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
(on adding the word “Lebanon” after “Syria” to Section 19 of the World Mission Council Report proposed action item: “Urge all members and friends to pray for the situation in Syria, and instruct the Council to continue to be in touch with Christian partners there and, in association with the Church and Society Council, help amplify the issues and support opportunities for a just and peaceable end to the conflict.”)
Neal Presa, 751, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Moderator, I rise today to second the comments of my dear friends and colleagues, Mary Mikhael of the Synod of Syria and Lebanon and second the amendment offered by former moderator, Iain Torrance.
Last week led an official moderatorial delegation from the PC(USA) to Lebanon and Egypt. Pastors from Syria traveled dangerous roads to meet us, to share harrowing stories of violence, destruction, murder, atrocities, and pillaging of towns in Syria – ravaged by outside religious radicals, and a dictatorial regime that together have caused countless despair, and causing nearly 1 million refugees to be displaced from their homes, flooding into Lebanon and challenging the infrastructure of Lebanon.
There are stories of one Syrian Christian woman who was gang-raped by 80 Islamist radicals then a crucifix stuffed in her throat and left to die. Numerous churches and a number of mosques have been destroyed, leaving Christian minorities to meet and worship in secret.
Our delegation visited two refugee camps, one refugee camp which housed 40 families in tents since December. We met children the same ages as my two sons, living in tents without heating or air-conditioning. I met a 19-year-old Palestinian young man named Abed, whose family had been in Syria and had moved four times. These are stories told us the truth.
When my government and the media in the United States have reported that this conflict as between binaries – democracy versus dictatorship, or a dictatorship versus rebel reformers—sadly, this conflict cannot be simplified and distilled into these simplistic binaries. The awful situation is a dreadful and deadly conflagration involving fundamentalists and radicals seeking their own ends at any cost, even to the point of bringing the outright decimation of Syria itself, with Christian minorities and moderate Muslims suffering in the process.
Two weeks ago, our church’s General Assembly offices through our Stated Clerk, transmitted a correspondence to the White House, calling upon the Obama Administration to use its influence in international councils, such as the United Nations, to promote a multilateral approach in seeking a mediated and expeditious cessation of violence and hostilities on all sides.
I hope this Assembly will offer its solidarity with our sisters and brothers in Syria and Lebanon, through prayer for peace and healing, advocacy for immediate action, and conscientization of the truth.
Thank you, Moderator.