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Syria and Christian unity

What does Christian unity mean?

This (right) was the entry in the Notice sheet for last Sunday 15 January, but it didn't do justice to the passionate whirlwind that was Father Nadim. Anglican he may be, but no timid platitudes about church unity emerged from his mouth.

He started by reminding the CTiC (Churches Together in Clapham) congregation in St James's Church, Clapham, about the place of Syria at the heart of the New Testament at the time of Jesus' birth in Judaea (then part of the Roman province of Syria) and of course later at the time of St Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus, the capital of Syria then and now. He explained for his Clapham audience how Syrians have been Christians for nearly 2 millennia - longer in fact than most Europeans. And how followers of Mohammed arrived six centuries later.

Fr Nadim has been in England for 20 years, but his connections with his home country and his passion for its Christian people remain intact.  And - we gradually realised - his sermon was being delivered in the week of prayer for Christian unity. Where, he asked us, was Christian unity being shown by us to Christian Syrians this evening? Where was the Christian unity in bombing Syria? Where were the Christian unity initiatives of the English and European churches to put pressure on governments to broker peace? Where was the Christian unity in our Clapham parishes and churches to try and help bring about reconciliation between the parties (although I am not sure anyone had told Fr Nadim about the theme of the evening being reconciliation).

You could quibble with Fr Nadim to say that our Christian duty is towards all the peoples of Syria, of whatever faith, for God knows the evil monsters who rampage around Syria and Iraq are blind to compassion or godliness of any sort. But you cannot quibble with Fr Nadim's passion, his conviction, his eloquence and his deeply-felt personal belief that unity - Christian unity - is about something more than an annual meaningless mantra.

It is practised - it is acted upon - it is a rule for life. So now it's over to you and me.

The Revd Nadim Nassar is the director and co-founder of the Awareness Foundation, and co-author of the Awareness Course. He established the Awareness Foundation in 2003 with Bishop Michael Marshall in response to the growing need for Christians to be develop a confident, living faith which would enable them to face the challenges of living in a diverse, globalised world.
Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Service Tuesday 17 January at 7.30pm, St James Church Park Hill. We shall be welcoming Rev Nadim Nassar, The first Anglican Priest from Syria in the Church of England. He is the Director and cofounder of the Awareness Foundation, a writer & broadcaster . The theme for the evening is reconciliation.