The situation in the stricken Syrian city of Homs is dire. Syria's third largest city has been devastated by the country's chaotic civil war. Hundreds have been killed. Thousands more have fled. The city is in ruins.
Recent reports suggest some 3,000-5,000 civilians remain trapped in the old city of Homs. These residents are running out of food, and people are resorting to desperate measures just to stay alive:
Newsweek: "People are literally running out of food - they have used up their supplies and now are eating leaves off the trees."
New York Times: "...some of the nearly 700 people who reached safety said they had been surviving on one meal a day and that some of their neighbors had resorted to eating grass."
Last Friday, a ceasefire between government and rebel forces was declared in a humanitarian gesture to seek the evacuation of civilian non-fighters from the city.
Yet, one man who does not appear to be leaving is Father Frans van der Lugt, a Dutch Jesuit priest. According to the Economist, the Jesuit recorded this video where he details the tragedy taking place in Homs:
"Christians and Muslims are going through a difficult and painful time and we are faced with many problems. The greatest of these is hunger. People have nothing to eat. There is nothing more painful than watching mothers searching for food for children in the streets...I will not accept that we die of hunger. I do not accept that we drown in a sea of hunger, letting the waves of death drag us under. We love life, we want to live. And we do not want to sink in a sea of pain and suffering."
Father van der Lugt rejected calls to leave Homs in search of freedom and a better life. Instead he stayed, in spite of the death of decay around him, in order to continue to serve the most vulnerable people of the city:
"At an earlier stage in the current war, many Christians left the city after rebel forces moved in; he chose to stay, telling objectors that "I am the shepherd of my flock.""
The Apostle Paul reminds us of one who willingly gave up the glories of heaven for the sake of those who could not help themselves. He left splendor and glory in order to bring hope, rescue in a world stricken with death and decay. Jesus Christ, being one with God, the divine logos, considered us worthy of his life and his death:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:3-8, ESV)
In many ways, the example of Father Frans van der Lugt points us even higher, to the person of Christ. Seeking to live as Christ, Father van der Lugt is "emptying himself" in service to God and the vulnerable people in Homs. May God give us vision, wisdom and strength to live in service to Him and others - even when the price to pay is great.
Please join The St. Charles Institute in prayer:
- For the residents of Homs seeking rescue, that the negotiated ceasefire would hold and that God would grant them safe passage out of the city.
- For the war-ravaged nation of Syria, a land where, according to one pastor, "a 'third world war' is taking place in the country, with 84 nationalities, including European and UK fighters now involved in the three-year conflict."
- For all who are suffering in this terrible conflict, that the God of peace would be revealed and bring His peace to this afflicted region.
- For Father Frans van der Lugt, that God would give him divine strength, protection and grace to continue his service to bring hope and peace to Syria.