Syria: The Burden of Memory and the Hope of the Gospel
This Study Guide, Syria: The Burden of Memory and the Hope of the Gospel, focuses on Syria's history and present experience of war and the role of proxy groups who added to the destruction. It concludes with a focus on Gospel hope, both for Syrians and for those of us whose governments have been complicit in the violence.
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Banner photo: Syrian refugee school girl walks home to the tent camp near Zahle, Lebanon (2014). Photo credit: Amgad Beblawi
Leader’s Guide for Discussion
The Study Guide was written by four members of the Syria-Lebanon Partnership Network of the Presbyterian Church, USA. We felt strongly that the views of our partners in the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon, and Syrians generally, are not being heard in the U.S. We hope it will help our church understand the background and current situation in which the Middle East finds itself.
The Study Guide is in three parts:
Part I: History and background of Syria in the context of the broader Middle East. The major political, economic, and religious forces at work in the region are reviewed, and their impact on the life of the church there.
Part II: This is a summary of the events of the Arab Spring (March 2011) and the aims of U.S. foreign policy and other countries' interests in Syria.
Part III: A theological exploration of Christ's call to be His ambassador in the world.
Note: We believe that the broad pattern of events in Syria over the past century is strongly at odds with God's plan for the people of Syria. We believe that God's plan is for their welfare and not their harm, a future filled with hope (Jeremiah 29:11). We believe that God laments over the suffering of the Syrian people and yearns for it to end. There are many dimensions to God's purpose and plan, which we summarize with the phrase, "Hope of the Gospel." Our discussion in Part III explores some of those dimensions.
Secondly, we believe it is incumbent upon Christians in the U.S. to understand how our government's actions have contributed to the suffering of millions of Syrians and the destruction of much of their country. As followers of the Prince of Peace, we cannot be indifferent to the suffering of others, especially when much of their suffering came about as a result of our actions. We describe this intentional commitment to understand and recognize our complicity in that humanitarian crisis as "Taking on the Burden of Memory."
Throughout this study guide, we ask the reader to listen for God's Word to the Church in the midst of great human suffering.
We suggest you schedule a four-week study plan, and that you split Part I into two segments, using A., B., and C. the first week and following with D., E. and F. the second week. Suggested questions are found in the documents below and they can be downloaded and printed for distribution to the class.
The Endnotes, found in the document on pages 52-54, are also found below, with live links to sources for easy access.
Additional materials may be posted to this page as they become available.
Western sanctions push war-weary Syrians deeper into poverty. AP News; August 2, 2019
Trump reportedly considering stopping all refugee admissions. The Christian Century, August 8, 2019
Refugee cuts affect persecuted Christians. The Christian Century, August 8, 2019
Long reach of U.S. sanctions hits Syria reconstruction. Reuters, September 2, 2018
Cardinal Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir’s life tells the story of Lebanon. The Christian Century, August 12, 2019
Father Frans van der Lugt, by Jordan Denari Duffner, The Christian Century, August 15, 2019