Recognizing the Sign of the Rainbow

RCH’s journey with churches in Middle-East and the worldwide Reformed family continues

At the invitation of Bishop Zoltán Balog, ministerial president of the Synod, a delegation from Lebanon and Syria visited RCH, among them Rev. Najla Kassab, President of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC).

Molnár János, Balog Zoltán, Harout Selimian, Szíriai Örmény Református Egyházak Közösségének elnöke, Najla Kassab  a Református Egyházak Világközösségének elnöke, Joseph Kassab, Libanoni és Szíriai Protestáns Egyh. Legfelsőbb Tanácsának eln. - 2021.11. 24

Handing over the gift made by the hands of orphans in Aleppo

János Molnár, Lay President, Bishop Zoltán Balog, Haroutune Selimian, Najla Kassab and Joseph Kassab

“God has put the rainbow as a sign that He will not break the promise with his people. As a sign of hope for the future,” reminded Najla Kassab members of the Synod of RCH on 24 November in her sermon on the Beatitudes. She referred to an enthusiastic graduate from Seminary who started his ministry in a downtown Church of a big City and organized a Sunday school class with the street children of the neighbourhood. During the first meeting he intro story of Noah to the kids, asking them where one can see the rainbow. Kids didn’t know the answer. After a long hesitation one of them cried out in excitement: “I have seen the rainbow on the ground, near the gas station where oil has dropped.”

“Today we come together to celebrate the fact that we committed ourselves to a Journey, not in the regular popular places, but to new places where the Lord opens our eyes to new possibilities; to new blessing; to continual striving to be like our Lord. Beyond the regular, the normal; the over stated. In our partnership, we decided to walk together on the journey with the struggling Christians on the streets of Syria and Lebanon, to hear the story and discern what does the Lord require from us. To see the Rainbow on the mud, on the streets in strange places”, invited the minister of the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon (NESSL) to continue the common journey, which RCH and Churches in the Syria and Lebanon started five years ago. She reminded those present that this blessed and fruitful joint ministry serves not only the minority churches in the Middle-East, but the whole worldwide family of Reformed churches. The Communion committed to justice is a fellowship of solidarity, where members “around the same table” feel safe to address even critical and dividing questions in the light of the Gospel.

After the worship, Synod members were offered the opportunity to engage in a lively discussion with the delegation representing partner churches of RCH. The delegation included Rev. Dr. Haroutune Selimian, President of the Armenian Evangelical Community in Syria, a member of the Union of Armenian Evangelical Churches in the Near East, and Rev. Joseph Kassab, General Secretary of NESSL and President of Supreme Council of Evangelical Churches in Syria and Lebanon. They confirmed that for Christians to stay in their respective countries, where they face social depression and economic hardship, and at times are even threatened by extremists, is in itself witness about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. “We must remain to demonstrate and live the concept of a ministering church,” said Rev. Dr. Selimian adding that “when our churches and schools were bombed, the support of the Hungarian Reformed people meant a lot.”

During the visit that took place between 22 and 25 November, members of the delegation engaged in an in-depth discussion with Bishop Zoltán Balog, Ministerial President of the Synod of RCH, about current issues of cooperation and continued support, which RCH has been deeply committed to in the past years. The fellowship with both NESSL and UAECNE, ‘sealed’ with a Memorandum in 2019, includes areas of cooperation in humanitarian aid, mission, diaconia and education. During the discussion also challenges were addressed which WCRC, as the third largest denominational communion, is facing.

"Reading the signs of our times, we are especially concerned by the great human suffering and political difficulties that our people are facing in the Middle East. We have been greatly disturbed by the incidents of violence that innocent civilians and entire communities, especially Christians, have been subjected to. As “Ambassadors for Christ” in promoting peace and reconciliation, we strictly condemn and oppose any form of religious discrimination, oppression and persecution... Together we commit ourselves to support each other in this ministry and to develop our cooperation among the different areas of our Church life. Our commitment to Christian values, to human dignity for all, to just peace and reconciliation, to human rights of minorities, and to equal citizenship in our societies of all communities, irrespective of their religious and ethnic background, is unquestionable."

(Quote from the Memorandum of Commitment signed by RCH and the Union of Armenian Evangelical Churches in the Near-East during a visit of RCH's delegation in Lebanon and Syria in March 2019)

The delegation met with representatives of the different ministries and institutions of RCH discussion possible ways of further strengthening the cooperation for the benefit of the churches straggling for equal citizenship and survival in the Middle-East. Discussions included the former Bishop Dr. István Szabó, a close friend who led the RCH delegation during the second solidarity visit to Syria in 2019; Károly Czibere, head of the Diaconia of RCH and chair of the Board of Trustees of the Hungarian Reformed Church Aid; Prof. Rev. Péter Balla; Vice-Rector, Prof. Géza Horváth, Dean of the Humanities, Dr. Judit Nagy, vice dean and dr. Gábor Szalai, Head of the International Relations Office of the Károli Gáspár Reformed University; László Zságer and Angela Canadey, directors of the Refugee Ministry of RCH and Rev. Eszter Dani, head of the Mission Department.

In Recognition of True Solidarity

"As a pastor in the Middle East, I am especially grateful for the commitment the Reformed Church in Hungary has made to the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon. “Sharing resources and expertise in the fields of humanitarian assistance, diaconal service, community development, Christian education, and pastors’ training, as well as encouraging congregational partnerships, solidarity visits of church officials, and exchange programs for pastors, experts, and young volunteers”—these commitments did bring hope for the church in the Middle East in the midst of struggle and many challenges to the Christian role and presence," expressed Najla Kassab her gratitude in a letter to RCH earlier this year.

During an official meeting with Dr. Tristan Azbej, State Secretary for the Aid of Persecuted Christians and the Hungary Helps program, members of the delegation expressed their gratitude for the ongoing financial support their churches received in the past three years for construction works and humanitarian projects and discussed plans for the future cooperation.

At a dinner they enjoyed the fellowship around the table with colleagues and friends who were on the delegation of RCH to Lebanon and Syria either in 2017 or in 2019.