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July 17, 2014
The following are letters from Archbishop Malkhaz Songulashvili, from the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia, who is in Lebanon visiting refugees, ministering to the people, and bringing food and medical supplies.
July 14, 2014
I have just had a meeting with some local people. Tomorrow we will meet with Sheikhs both from Syria and Lebanon. My host is carefully planning my visit to Damascus. All the flights seem to be cancelled. I will have to travel by road. Hoping not to have "Damascus Road" experience. :)
Today a few people were killed on the Lebanese and Syrian borders.
On Wednesday I will travel to Damascus on my own leaving Alexander in Lebanon. He is very keen to come with me but I would not take a risk on somebody else's behalf. He will travel to Bekaa Valley with some local people.
Do pass my greetings to the people you are meeting in St Catherines. Their prayers for Muslim and Christian refugees will be highly appreciated. War is such a nasty business.
Those who help refugees here are told not to make their lives comfortable so that they will not stay here. Nothing deprives you of your humanity as the feeling that you are not wanted anywhere! This is a world of pain and uncertainty where we are now.
|Malkhaz meeting with Sheik Muhammad, supreme chair of Islamic Court and refugee sheiks from Syria.|
Today we went to the city of Saida which is Biblical Sydon. We had a meeting with Sheik Muhammad, supreme chair of Islamic Court. He invited refugee sheiks from Syria. We had a lengthy encounter with them.
They told us about their needs and fears. The conditions most of the refugees live in seem to be very difficult.
Three priorities have been singled out:
1. Needs for shelter.
2. Need for Medical Care.
3. Need for educating children.
There is a potential for Christian-Muslim peace building here! The sheiks were extremely grateful for our visit to Saida. It seems there is a huge need for counseling among the refugees. They are longing for listening ears...
On our way back to Beirut we were stopped by Khamas Militia but the judge produced his "magic" pass which helped us get through checkpoints.
Tomorrow I hope to be able to go to Damascus, but the arrangements have not been confirmed yet.
The Sheiks see a danger in leaving children and generations without education. In accordance with them, the uneducated are easy targets for the fundamentalists.
I forgot to tell you that one of the sheiks, 75 years old, has become a refugee for the third time. He is a Palestinian who went to the refugee camp in Jordan, after Arab-Israeli war, then he went from Jordan to Syria, where he says their conditions were very good, now he is in Saida.
He is sad that the refugees are deeply humiliated because the way they are treated here.
I had a very interesting experience in Bekaa Valley which is a Hezbullah stronghold. We started early morning for the Valley. I was depressed firstly because of impossible situation with the refugees in Lebanon (in the country of 4 million people they now have 3 million refugees from Syria, Iraq and Palestine!!!), secondly because of failure to get to Damascus. While in the Valley somebody suggested that Bishop should meet local Archbishop of Malakite Orthodox church who the the most prominent Christian figure in the Valley. At first I wanted to opt out but then I though I had to go.
I am glad I went. I was received by the Archbishop in a medieval palace. We had an excellent meeting. He is a kindred soul. Apparently he has all sorts of connections in Syria and he offered his help to get not only to Damascus but event to Aleppo!!! It seems the Lord led me to the Archbishop to find my way into Syria.
"It's the easiest thing I can do for you!" told me the Archbishop. Had I had a few more days he would take me to Syria through his channels but since I have to return today to Tbilisi (I can not change my tickets), I ask him whether he would help me to Get to Syria if I came a couple of months later. He said he can have me meet not only religious leaders in Damascus but top Ranking politicians (!!!) as well.
It seems the Lord closed one door for me to get to Syria and opened a number of doors instead. This is what I think: I will not leave the relief money in Lebanon but take them within a couple of months directly to Syria. Will you approve such a plan? I returned from the Valley absolutely amazed at God's grace!