A Syrian Army tank stands between buildings during an operation September 2013 in the suburbs of Damascus. Photo: ART production/Shutterstock
In a statement released Thursday, September 29, Hiltz said he had received the previous day an urgent appeal for prayer for the people of the city. The primate began his statement by quoting this appeal.
“I am praying, in fact I am screaming at God to send his holy angels to protect the city. I rail at Him to please intervene,” the appeal read. Hiltz does not name the person who sent the appeal. The Journal has learned the person is a church member whose privacy is being respected.
The appeal for angelic help was timely, Hiltz said, given that September 29 is the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels.
“Accordingly, I am calling our Church to prayer for this ancient and once beautiful city, now besieged and lying in ruins,” Hiltz said.
Hiltz laments the hundreds of people killed in the bombing campaign, and the difficulties of providing help to people in the city, especially given recent attacks on aid convoys.
In early 2014, the UN said it would no longer attempt to estimate how many people had been killed in the conflict, because of the difficulty of reaching many parts of the country. Last March, however, Staffan de Mistura, the UN's special envoy for Syria, said that by his own unofficial reckoning, the war must have claimed some 400,000 lives. In February, the Syrian Center for Policy Research, a non-governmental think tank, estimated 470,000 people had lost their lives either directly or indirectly as a result of the conflict, and that more than one in every 10 Syrians had been either killed or wounded.
The atrocities in Aleppo, Hiltz said, are for many people just one more episode in the war that has been plaguing the country for five years now—and the cause of much fear for anyone with family members living in the area.
“Is it any wonder that they are ‘screaming to God to send his holy angels to protect the city’?” the primate asks.
Hiltz then requests prayers for those affected by the fighting.
“On this day when we think of all those angels of whom we read in the Scriptures—all those who bow down before God in everlasting praise of his glory and then at his bidding come to the aid of those who call upon his mercy and justice, let us pray for the people of Aleppo,” he says. “Pray that legions of angels come to their protection and aid.”
The primate then asks for prayers for relief workers “for they themselves are angels working in the midst of great dangers.” And for the people responsible for the crimes against humanity committed in the war, Hiltz says, “Pray that by a visitation of angels their hearts be turned.”
The primate requests prayers, too, for those trying to negotiate peace in Syria.
Hiltz ends his statement with a request for prayers for the day when, in the words of the prophet Isaiah, “Violence shall no longer be heard in your land, devastation within your borders. You shall call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise” (Isaiah 60:18).
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Tali Folkins has worked as a staff reporter for the Law Times and the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal. His writing has appeared in The Globe and Mail and The United Church Observer.
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