Friday, October 4, 2013

Request for Prayers for Monasteries in Syria & Egypt

 Ma'loula St. Thekla in Syria; photo below shows Saidnaya; bottom photo shows St. Catherine's
This request for prayers for Monasteries in Syria and Egypt comes from an Orthodox nun, Mother Paraskeva:

"….. As you probably know, Syria and the surrounding regions (and Egypt) have been in crisis in recent months. An alarming consequence from the internal civil strife in these regions has been the focused persecution of Christians and the destruction of ancient Christian sites-- many ancient Orthodox churches and monasteries. (Incidentally, Syria is dotted with many holy Christian sites and places connected with biblical events.) As I don't know how well the media at large is covering the news of the immense sufferings of Christians in Syria and Egypt (and I suspect it isn't), I'd like to humbly call your attention to a few highlights for your consideration and prayer.

Not the least of my concerns about the violence in these regions are the sufferings of my fellow Orthodox nuns and monks: specifically, St. Thekla's Monastery in Ma'loula (Syria), Convent of Our Lady  of Saidnaya (Syria), and St. Catherine's Monastery in Mt Sinai (Egypt).

1.  St. Thekla's Monastery: pray for Abbess Pelagia and 40 orphans who are there in the town of Ma'loula-- a 30 min drive north of Damascus. A few weeks ago opposition militants were demanding that nuns leave this 1,300 year old monastery. I believe since then the Free Syrian Army has successfully defended the monastery, but for 4 days, the nuns took the orphans and hid in a nearby cave not coming out even to buy bread for fear of being shot. There may still be militants in the town. Pray for their safety. I can't imagine what that must be like for them.

2. Saidnaya Mother of God Monastery: There are a few monasteries and churches in the town of Saidnaya, Syria-- one of the last surviving cities (along with Ma'loula) where the inhabitants still speak Aramaic, the language of our Savior. (Saidnaya is known as "the beating heart of Syrian Christianity.") This week, jihadist militants have invaded this ancient Christian town and have already totally destroyed and desecrated some churches, pulling down crosses, slashing ancient icons,etc. The nuns at this particular Orthodox monastery in Saidnaya are threatened. Pray for them.

3. St. Catherine's Monastery, Mt Sinai, Egypt: This is the oldest continuously inhabited Christian monastery. A brotherhood of monks have lived there since it was built by Emperor Justinian in the 6th C. It was built around the burning bush that Moses beheld (you can see it there today) and has a vast library of ancient Christian manuscripts second only to the Vatican.  As of early August, this monastery has been shut down to visitors due to security concerns. (Did you know that onAug. 15, 52 churches in Egypt were attacked within a 24-hr period? Ethnic cleansing anyone? CNN reported this). This past week, I was in contact with a representative of St Catherine's Monastery who has informed me that the monastery is in serious financial crisis and who forwarded me this article. A grassroots fundraising campaign, starting in Southern California, is in the works to support this ancient monastery. Once things are in place I hope to forward you their website where we can help in this effort by making a donation. I have personally met the kindly and wise Father Pavlos (whom you see in the article's photo) and have attended an online lecture given by Fr Justin (the librarian and only American at the monastery) so my heart is very much connected with this holy place. Please pray that the violence ceases in this region so that the monastery may reopen again to pilgrims as God wills and that they would be once again able to feed themselves and the numerous Bedouin families they support. (The historic relationship between the monastery and the surrounding Bedouin tribes is a notable example of Christians living peacefully along side Muslims!)

And one more piece of sad news: this week, the 700 + yr old old Church of Sts Sergius and Bacchus in Maloula was destroyed. The large central icon-- dating from the 13th C.-- was completely destroyed as were the icons of Christ the "Archpastor" and the Mother of God icon. The altar was desecrated, the dome destroyed, and walls and the icons painted on them have been shot through. The nuns who were tending to the this beautiful church recently fled to the nearby St Thekla Monastery. It is enough to make one cry.

I humbly appeal to you to pray and spread the word concerning these tragedies. Pray for the Christians there, but not only them, but for all peoples in Syria, Greater Syria and Egypt-- Christians, Sunni, Shiite, Alawite, Druze, Al-Qaeda, Al-Nusra, their leaders, everyone.Each is made in the image of God and for each Christ died and rose so that they may truly live in union with Him, but many are sadly abiding in spiritual death.

Let us remember also to pray for our enemies as Christ commanded: Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.  As Christ once turned the heart of the chief persecutor of Christians, Saul, to saving repentance on the road to Damascus, so too may he turn the hearts of those who persecute Christians to Him-- the Prince of Peace and Lord of Lords-- to Whom alone is due all glory, honor and worship together with His unoriginate Father, and His all-holy, good and Life-creating Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

In Christ's love,

Mother Paraskeva"


Read also

Read also my other blog entries about Syria:

All for now,

tags: Syria, Syrian, war, revolution, conflict, Middle East, Egypt, churches, religion, monasteries, Assad

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