Local church with Syrian ties reacts to possible U.S. military strike

For the congregation of Saint Elias Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church in Onondaga, the conflict in Syria hits home. Not only do some of the parishioners come from Syria, the church is based in Damascus where it traces its roots to the time of Christ in the holy land.

When asked how his congregation is reacting to the latest developments in Syria, Reverend Elias Nasr told CNY Central's Jim Kenyon, "We are totally devastated. Words cannot express the pain."

Father Nasr says more than a million christians used to live in peace in Syria. "Always the Muslims and the Christians lived very happily with each other and they were protected by the government... the Christians."{>}

Nasr says if not for what "external influences", Syrians could have resolved their differences with the Assad regime internally. He says those outside forces which include Islamic extremists have pushed the country into war. Now christian churches are being burned and two bishops have been kidnapped. Nasr feels the world does not know the truth about the chemical weapons attack that killed hundreds of civilians.

He says the United States should not take military action against Assad. "Aren't we missing the opportunity to find the truth? Do we cause more damage by killing more innocent people to teach a lesson to an individual?"

Nasr hopes President Obama's address tonight will acknowledge that world opinion opposes military retaliation against the Syrian government. "We need to be reasonable, rational and listen to our hearts and think with our minds and discover the truth... not act in haste. The whole world is against this. What does our President not see?"

This Sunday is "Antiochian Solidarity Day" when orthodox christian churches throughout the nation will collect donations for those suffering the effects of war in Syria.

Read the church's position on military action in Syria.