Photo: Antioch Syrian University

Photo: Antioch Syrian University

Representing hope in the face of adversity, the Antioch Syrian University opened its doors on 8 September in Ma’arat Sednaya, about 20 km from Damascus.

The university is offering two courses of study: engineering, and management and economics.

“Despite the adversities we have some hope,” said Dr Theodora Issa of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East. “This comes despite the ongoing uncertainty in the region.”

While first conceived as a university in the northern part of Syria, due to the war construction was unable to begin. The Patriarchate was then given special permission to commence teaching through the branch located at Ma’arat Sednaya.

Issa believes the new university will hold an important place in history as it helps people gain the knowledge they need to rebuild their region. Issa shared the story of a school established by St Jacob in the city of Nisbis, in the year 350. Referred to by some scholars as “The World’s First University,” the school taught theology, philosophy and medicine.

In the year 363, when Nisbis fell to the Persians, St Ephraim the Syrian, with some teachers from the Nisbis school, left and headed to Edessa.

The city of Edessa was the home of a school established in the 2nd century by the kings of the Abgar Dynasty. When St Ephraim took over the school in Edessa, its importance grew immensely. Further, St Ephraim established the laws and canons that would be the base on which other universities have been established around the world.

“Therefore, it is not surprising that the new Antioch Syrian University comes at such a difficult time to assist those residing in the region to gain the knowledge needed to rebuild their region,” said Issa.

Dr Issa congratulates Moran Mor Ignatious Aphrem II, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East and the Supreme Head of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church, as well as Syrian Orthodox communities around the world, for this achievement. “Let us thank all the supporters and pray to God the Almighty for the successful completion of the whole project.”

WCC member churches in Syria