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September 7, 2017

Wilberforce A!ert: How do you provide pastoral care in the midst of tragedy?

A Christian leader in Syria described the horrific atrocities she witnessed and the enormous difficulties facing those striving to live as agents of peace amid the most catastrophic crisis in the world right now. She lamented:

“The torture impacting our country is of the kind that a human being forgets if he is a man or a woman or even their own name.”

The grim statistics from the ground in Syria continue to reflect a situation that continues to disintegrate.

Many have chosen to flee. A recent Open Doors International report released this summer estimates that between 300 and 800 thousand Christians have left Syria since 2015, cutting their already minority population by 20-40 percent. Though it significantly reduces their ability to receive assistance, the vast majority of these individuals refuse to register as refugees. Our Syrian friend explained this is because of “compulsory housing in the refugee camps in Jordan and Turkey, and fears of being perceived as traitors – (thus) facing reprisal by the Syrian government upon future return to Syria.”

What many may not have considered are the significant implications of this conflict on spiritual guidance and pastoral care. In a situation where those impacted are counted in the millions, faith leaders across the spectrum who have chosen to remain inside the country are on the frontlines of providing hope and peace. Providing spiritual care and nourishment is always a challenge, but the need and risk escalate with war-torn communities, orphaned children, abandoned families, and rising divorce rates – all of which are happening in Syria today.

One individual who has the means and opportunity to emigrate but who has chosen to stay and serve pondered: “Does the Christian in the Middle East still believe in the power of Christ in you? With so much killing, I doubt it.” She continued that at a time when many have lost hope, it is all the more pressing for faith leaders to stand alongside these victims with counseling and encouragement and to provide markers for renewed faith.

Faith leaders who remain in Syria need our support to provide solace and solidarity, to mourn with the bereaved and to shepherd communities caught in the crosshairs of conflict.

In October, the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative is hosting a “Rise Up and Build” conference to come alongside 75 Christian leaders from across Syria to give them a time of rest, spiritual encouragement and renewed training.

But we need your help. We want to deliver a letter of encouragement and prayer to each one of these 75 Christian leaders who have chosen to remain inside Syria as voices of hope and care. Would you write one of the 75 letters? It would take a few minutes of your time, but provide days and weeks of encouragement.

Take Action:

1. Write a letter of encouragement and prayer to a Christian leader in Syria and send it to us by September 30 so we can hand-deliver it to these brothers and sisters on the frontline:

21st Century Wilberforce Initiative

405 N. Washington Street, Suite 300

Falls Church, VA 22046

In your letter, do NOT discuss politics, the U.S., the Syrian government, the war, or the humanitarian challenges as all of these could put the leaders in jeopardy. Instead, share from the spiritual overflow of your heart, a Bible verse, and a prayer of encouragement.

2. Host a letter writing party with your small group one Sunday in order to help ensure that every Christian leader will receive at least one note of encouragement.

3. Use this link to send an electronic copy and invite others on social media to use the link to join you in sending a letter of encouragement. 


Region: Middle East & North Africa
Keywords: Syria,Syrian Christians,Syria war,Assad,humanitarian aid,Syrian pastors,21st Century Wilberforce Initiative,21 Century Wilberforce Initiative,21 Wilberforce,21CWI

Elijah Brown

Elijah Brown, Ph.D. is Executive Vice President of the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative. Brown received his Ph.D. in Divinity from the University of Edinburgh. He was an Associate Professor of Religion at East Texas Baptist University, where he also served as the founding Director of the Freedom Center. In 2007, Brown was named one of 35 global emerging leaders by the Baptist World Alliance, a network representing 40 million Baptists worldwide.

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