By Susan Kim (*)
Early Thursday morning – the very morning he would gather with his World Council of Churches (WCC) colleagues to talk about unity among churches and solidarity in conflicts - Metropolitan Eustathius Matta Roham watched a disturbing video recorded in Syria.
“The video was of two young men in military uniforms. They were attacked by a whole neighbourhood somewhere close to the Jordanian-Syrian border,” said Roham, Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East. The two men were apparently killed in the attack.
What most struck Roham was that the whole neighbourhood seemed to be involved in the crime. “The young men were walking down the street as if it were peaceful. Then, who was involved in the crime? An elderly woman – over 75 years old. A woman in her 50s, and children under 15 years old. Young men about 25, men in their 30s and 40s. Some were involved in the killing, others were celebrating the crime.”
These acts of violence – and the video clips depicting them – have become very common, Roham said. “You can see that, if these two soldiers had their family in the next neighbourhood, this would then have become a neighbourhood retaliating against a neighbourhood.”
And that is how the Syrian conflict has escalated, he said: “It grows out from an individual crime into community crime, from a community crime to a national crime, to actually one nation divided.”
Churches can provide voice of justice
Later in the morning, Roham visited with his WCC colleagues who also reside in countries struggling with conflict: Nigeria, the Korean peninsula, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and others.
As they discussed the role of the collective church in conflict situations, Roham said he was grateful for the solidarity and global support he has found within the WCC. He believes the ecumenical movement has adopted a sense of responsibility with regard to peace. “We do see the presence of the ecumenical church in Syria, and we do believe that there is a collective voice speaking out for justice and peace.”
Even in the midst of the current conflict, the ecumenical movement is working in a unified way to help Syria avoid future disaster, he added.
Yet Roham wishes that these unified efforts of peace had been stronger near the beginning of the Syrian conflict. “Then Syria wouldn't have come to this point of so much bloodshed, killing, revenge and devastation. Today, most big towns are totally destroyed.”
(*) Susan Kim is a freelance writer from Laurel, Maryland, United States.