Candles were lit and prayers were said for the Syrian city of Aleppo at Burley-in-Wharfedale at the weekend. The Bishop of Bradford, Toby Howarth and the congregation of St Mary’s heard first-hand about the horrors facing the city from a Syrian Christianwho lives locally.
Johnny, a Syrian Christian from Aleppo, took part in a service of prayer for Aleppo, talking about the current situation, the suffering he and his own family have experienced, and leading prayers with a soulful and moving Arabic version of the Lord’s Prayer.
Johnny, who now runs the Pizza One take-away in the town, presented a snapshot of the situation in Aleppo explaining about his own family’s experiences. His own father, a wealthy businessman left Syria losing everything, but Johnny told the congregation, “I still have my faith in my heart…I carry my Jesus from Syria to here”. He told the story of the work of Pastor Abdullah, whose church provides for families of all faiths and especially for those whose family members have been killed by ISIS because they are Christians. “If we pray we can move all the world, we can open all the doors, ” he said.
Bishop Toby Howarth (pictured right with St Mary's vicar, Revd Dr Alastair Kirk and Johnny) encouraged the church to be honest with feelings of anger and pain, to recognise the injustice of the past and to expect that God will eventually bring resurrection out of death and destruction. “The leaders of the world know exactly what is happening and yet they have decided that it will continue, because it is worth their while to let it continue”. He added, “Even though life isn’t as it should be, we believe in something different…when we bring our feelings, our reality into God’s presence, something changes.”