The Sunday Magazine·The Sunday Edition

Syrian priest warns his country's Christians are in grave danger

Nadim Nassar, the only Church of England priest from Syria, describes what life is like inside the war-torn country, for its vibrant Christian community.
Michael Enright on-stage with Father Nadim Nassar, Grace Church on-the-Hill, Toronto, November 2, 2015 (Anthony Whittingham)

Here in North America, half a world away, the human face of the Syrian civil war, is the mass of desperate people fleeing for their lives. We watch in horror as people jam into bulging refugee camps, or lie dead on Mediterranean shores, the human flotsam of smugglers' boats that never did find that safe harbour.

Father Nadim Nassar (Awareness Foundation)
What we don't see so much, are glimpses of life inside Syria, a nation riven by an intractable war between the Bashar al-Assad regime, opposition militias and ISIS. The West has been largely paralyzed by this complicated war, limiting its military action to air strikes against ISIS. Russia has been bolder, but has been accused of being less interested in combatting terrorism than in propping up a cruel dictator.

Reverend Nadim Nassar knows the reality on the ground. He is the only Syrian priest in the Church of England. He was born and raised in Latakia, Syria, which is now the site of a Russian military base.

Father Nassar served as a parish priest in London for more than a decade. He is a member of the United Kingdom's all-party parliamentary group on international religious freedom, and an adviser for the UK Home and Foreign Offices.

He is also the director and co-founder of the Awareness Foundation ... a charity that addresses religious violence with a focus on Christian communities in the Middle East.

As part of his work with the foundation, Father Nassar continues to slip into Syria to assist Christians who still live there, at great risk to his own life. Nadim Nassar was a guest of Grace Church on-the-Hill in Toronto on Monday, November 2, 2015, and that's where Michael Enright interviewed him, before a live audience. 
Mass at a Syriac Church in Istanbul. March 2015 (Nil Köksal/CBC)


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