by Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon
During this past September 13-18, I was part of a delegation sent to Syria by Metropolitan PHILIP to investigate the internal political situation in that country, particularly with respect to its Christian minority. Our group consisted of six priests of the Antiochian Archdiocese: Fathers Dimitri Darwich (our guide and the only Arabic- speaker), Timothy Ferguson, Joseph Huneycutt, John Winfrey, David Bleam, and myself; and two Protestant pastors: Bonn Clayton and Norman Wilson. An expert in international law, James Perry, came with us, too, accompanied by his wife, Martha, who served as the delegation’s secretary. Attached to the delegation as a reporter for Ancient Faith Radio was John Maddex, its Executive Director.
The following is my own assessment of that experience, along with some account of what I learned.
Let me begin by expressing a deep, sincere gratitude to Metropolitan PHILIP, both for the golden opportunity to visit Syria and for the confidence he placed in myself and the others he sent.
Most of this trip was devoted to matters not directly related to its purpose – namely, visits to shrines and other places of cultural interest. We began, in fact, by first paying our respects at the house of St. Ananias, the first bishop of Damascus, who baptized Saul of Tarsus. We also saw the window in the city wall, through which the Apostle was lowered in a basket. We walked many blocks along and around the “street called Straight,” passing through the Christian and Jewish sections of the city. (There are still three thousand Jews in Syria, by the way, another of the minorities who find a secure home in that country.)