Swiss Churches Unite To Pray For Syria And Iraq

Over 700 people crammed into St Peter and St Paul's Old Catholic cathedral in Bern on Sunday 7 September to pray for the victims of violence and war in Syria and Iraq. The Swiss National Council of Churches and the Evangelical Alliance had got together for the service and it was attended by people from all over Switzerland and from many different churches as well as some from the Muslim community. The Archdeacon of Switzerland (Diocese in Europe) the Ven Peter M. Potter also took part in the service.

Syrian and Iraqi Christians who have now sought refuge in Switzerland had travelled to be there, many of them wearing t-shirts with the slogan "I am Christian – I am Nazrany" and the Arabic letter N (for "Nazrany, the Arabic word for Christian). As a leading Swiss newspaper commented, this would be the equivalent of wearing a yellow star in the 1930s and 40s. A Syrian choir sang the Lord's Prayer in Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus and still used by Christian communities in the Middle East. One of the main speakers was Archbishop Isa Gürbüz of the Syrian Orthodox Church in Switzerland. He spoke passionately about the "ethnic cleansing" that is now taking place in the homelands of these ancient Christian communities.

The service consisted of Bible readings, psalms of lament and prayers for the Christians and others caught up in the violence in these two countries. After the Archbishop's blessing in Aramaic, the congregation gathered outside to form a cercle de silence, a symbol of protest but also of our speechlessness at the horrors being committed. The congregation was invited to place candles on the ground to form the shape of a dove and the service ending with all singing Donna nobis pacem. In fact, after this close the Syrian and Iraqi Christians continued with songs and prayers in the open air – something that would probably bring certain death if they were to do so in their home countries.

Information from Archdeacon Peter Potter