Reformed church representatives say there is concern for the safety of an 80-year old nun and a Protestant pastor working in a church-run nursing home for elderly people in the Syrian town of Homs - writes Kristine Greenaway.
Sister Valentine and the Rev Mofid Karajaili have chosen to stay with residents of the Evangelical Centre for the Elderly in the Bab Sbaa neighborhood despite escalating violence between government and opposition forces in the city, according to people with knowledge of the situation.
In a message sent to the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) in Geneva, an official with the church synod referred to the worsening armed combat between rebel and government forces.
"Things are getting worse," said Najla Kassab of the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon in a message sent from her office in Lebanon. "We are concerned for the safety of the pastor and the nun."
In recent weeks the Bab Sbaa neighbourhood, a stronghold of government opponents, has been the scene of continuous battles. Employees at the nursing home have received threats, the building has been damaged and one resident killed.
In an agreement between the Presbyterian church of Homs (a congregation of the Evangelical Synod) and the Catholic church, the nursing home is staffed by sisters who are trained to work with the elderly. Sister Valentine, originally from Lebanon, has been the facility's director for the past five years.
Karajaili, a Syrian, is the pastor of the Presbyterian congregation which founded the nursing home in 2000. He volunteered to serve the parish when the previous pastor left due to the violence.
In a message sent to WCRC last week, Karajaili said the decision to keep the nursing home open was important. "It is a sign of hope and a clear message that Christianity is still alive and has its role in the midst of difficult situations," he wrote.
The National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon is a member of WCRC. Kassab serves on WCRC's Executive Committee.
Kristine Greenaway is Executive Secretary, Communications, with the WCRC in Geneva.
[With acknowledgements to ENInews. ENInews, formerly Ecumenical News International, is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Communion of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]