In a number of towns and cities across Syria, Christian children of all denominations will gather together in a Day of Prayer for Peace.
Catholic and Orthodox Church leaders in Syria plan to commemorate the UN’s International Day of the Child on June 1 as a joint Day of Prayer for Peace. This campaign springs from an initiative of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) which, in a joint Catholic-Orthodox delegation earlier this year, in April, visited representatives of all the Christian Churches in Syria in order to talk with them about joint initiatives for peace and reconstruction in Syria. This prayer campaign of the children is one of the first fruits of these discussions.
On the International Day of the Child, in the cities of Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, Tartus and Marmarita, hundreds of Christian children of the various different Christian denominations will gather together for peace processions and for a rich and varied programme of prayer and activity.
The Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs of the country have signed a joint message in which they invite Christians throughout the world to join together spiritually in this prayer for peace. As the “Patron” of this campaign, they have chosen the Child Jesus himself, represented as King, holding the globe of the world in his left hand, and with his right hand blessing the world. The image they have chosen is known to all the Catholic world in the form of the statue of the “Infant Jesus of Prague”, while for the Orthodox Church a near identical portrayal is familiar to them in the form of an icon, widely loved in Syria, and known as “The Mother of God of the Never Fading Rose”, in which the Blessed Virgin holds the Christ Child, dressed as a King, in her arms.
The children will walk in procession, carrying these icons and statues of the Child Jesus with them.
In their message, the patriarchs write: “The children in our own home country of Syria are the little brothers and sisters of the suffering Child Jesus. For more than five years now they have been dragged through a cruel war, wounded, traumatised or even killed. Many have lost their parents and everything that was dear to them. Innumerable children were born during the war and have never experienced peace. Their tears and their sufferings cry out to Heaven.”
They also add: “The defenceless Child, in whose form God chose to become man, is at the same time the Lord of history. The Prophet Isaiah foretold this Child as “Prince of Peace” and “Wonderful Counsellor”. That is why the Christ Child is often portrayed, not only as a naked child in the manger, but as a King, holding in His left hand the globe, representing the world, and with His right hand blessing the whole Earth. The Christ Child has come to bring peace.
The patriarchs conclude with this appeal: “We pray to Him – the Christ, the King of the Universe, who carries the world in His hand, in the arms of His mother – to bless all the children of Syria. We implore Him, who alone can bring peace: “Protect and save the children of this land! Hear our prayers, now! Delay no longer in granting peace to our land! Look upon the tears of the children; dry the tears of the mothers; let the cries of grief at last fall silent!”
ACN is also taking part in this prayer campaign and calling on all people of goodwill to extend this day of prayer throughout the world. It is hoped that the 1st of June will become a starting point for continuing prayer campaigns for peace. “We are hoping that this campaign will continue, so that the light of peace can shine forth brightly”, the Syrian bishops told ACN. It is hoped, in particular, that children in schools and parishes throughout the world will join together in this day of prayer for their peers in Syria.