A Christian leader from Syria will visit the Charlotte area this week to talk about the Syrian refugee crisis and how churches there are responding.
The Red Cross recently called the humanitarian situation in Syria “nothing short of catastrophic,” as millions of people have left their homes during almost two years of fighting between rebels and the Syrian government.
The mass exodus has left entire communities destroyed and people without jobs or places to live.
Mary Mikhael, who was born in Syria and is an elder in the Presbyterian Church in Beirut, Lebanon, will meet with church leaders and visit churches in the Charlotte area this week.
She will talk about the situation in Syria, including how churches are part of the relief effort, and what churches here can do to help.
“She is a resident who knows the situation well,” said Larry Richards, who first met Mikhael when she was his student at the Near East School of Theology in Beirut in the 1970s.
Richards and his wife lived in the Middle East for 25 years, including time in Iraq and Beirut, and now live in Rock Hill.
The Presbyterian Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon recently asked Mikhael to serve as an international spokeswoman for the church, and she travels around the world to discuss the Syrian crisis.
According to Mikhael, there are 20 active Presbyterian churches in Syria. The churches are helping with the humanitarian relief efforts by providing food, medicine and other basic and spiritual needs when possible.
Congregations there, however, are suffering.
“There are not a large number of people in the churches, so they are doing well to pick up the debris and move some of their family,” Richards said.
In a recent letter published by the Providence Presbytery, Mikhael described the situation facing many Syrians, including high food prices, dwindling resources, lack of food, and houses, businesses and churches being destroyed.
Churches are helping as many families they can to stay in Syria, as leaders visit families in their homes, provide financial assistance and work with other churches and relief agencies.
Richards said churches around the world could help churches in Syria by providing money for relief work and encourage government leaders to help facilitate peace in the region.