'This Is Not the Time to Leave.' Why This Pastor Won't Abandon His Country
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WASHINGTON -- We hear a lot about the refugees fleeing Syria, but what is life like for the Syrian people still inside the country?
Rev. Harout, an Armenian evangelical pastor, refuses to move away from his church in Syria because he believes now more than ever it is so important for Christian leaders to be there for all those struggling inside the country. His full name has been withheld for security reason.
"Our life became so dangerous and we are feeling more responsible towards the people that we are serving," Harout said. "This torn apart nation needs people that are filled with the spirit and with love and compassion, and we are trying to be there as long as the war is there."
***CBN News Reporter Abigail Robertson sat down with Rev. Harout while he was in Washington, D.C., for the National Prayer Breakfast. Click play to watch his full interview.***
Rev. Harout's church serves as a center for the whole community, Christians and Muslims, and provides relief to all of those struggling with the side effects of war in Aleppo.
"Our church and our church courtyard is located in a Muslim dominated region and everybody comes to our poli-clinic, and they come to our social service action center, and we try and stretch hands and help especially when the water cuts off from Aleppo," Harout said.
"We feel so good that whatever we have from richness or possibilities, accessibilities, we try to share it with the community without any discrimination," he said. "This is our teaching, this is our faith, and this is how to be a Syrian in Syria."
Many churches have been destroyed in Syria, but Harout said as soon as places of worship are destroyed, they begin repairing the facilities because the people need to feel some sense of stability amongst all the destruction around them.
No matter what destruction surrounds Harout and his family, he is determined to remain in his country.
"We have to be there, we have to be protective to our churches, our schools, and our social clubs," he said.
Harout said despite the dangerous conditions inside Syria, he hears reports from people who have fled who are now living as refugees in situations not much better than what they left behind.
"We are very much concerned about all those who went out because we are hearing so many stories that they are not in good shape," he explained. "Many still are living in social halls of the churches in Toronto, in other places."
"And some families also they are calling us in Aleppo and Syria and saying, 'Pastor, if you can manage something, we are planning to come back with our family, to come back home to Aleppo, because we don't want to stay like this all these years,'" he continued.
The people of Harout's congregation stay calm because of their firm belief God is protecting them.
"My spirit is calm, we are very much trusted to God and every day we feel that God is protecting us and God is stretching his hand over Syria," Harout said.
No matter what happens, Harout has no plans on leaving Syria.
"I don't want to leave, I have to be with my people, with the community," he said. "As the head of the Armenian Protestant churches in Syria, God called me to be here, and being a pastor is not for good days only, it's for all the time, it's for all days."
"Faith should be tested, and Satan is surrounding us, it's not that we should leave the desert and go and leave the place for Satan," he said. "Jesus stayed there, and we are going to stay there, and we are going to say to the Satan, 'Stay back.'"
"If the Christian faith is not tested, we will not see how real it is, and how powerful it is," he continued. "The power of the Christian faith always comes during the test, and how are we going to be tested? By fire. And the fire is all the time, all over the community so we have many challenges, and today I believe that our Christian faith is challenged as well."
"This is not the time to leave, this is the time to stay and give testimony to the marvelous work that God is doing in our lives," he said.
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