Syria: ‘If there are no men to lead the church, I will do it!’
Mathild Sabbagh (26) returns to her hometown. She is the first female minister in Syria. Her town in northern Syria is surrounded by ISIS. Last year, her cousin was killed by Muslim extremists. Her brother who is also a pastor was kidnapped. In the middle of a war zone, she will lead the church. “I am not afraid, because I know I have a mission.”
Mathild is ready to leave for Syria. Her large black suitcase contains her whole life. It’s her last day in the Lebanese capital Beirut. This summer Mathild completed her master’s degree in theology. “Look, I received this official appointment from the synod yesterday, one day before my departure. Exactly on time”. Her nails are painted bright red. She is the first female minister in Syria. Her predecessor fled 2.5 years ago with his family to Sweden, as well as many other fellow citizens.
‘I believe in the mysterious growth of the Kingdom of God, even against the odds.’
“If there are no men who can lead the church at this time, I’ll do it!” Her voice sounds firm. Before the war her church still had almost 200 members, but today only 30 or 40 people have remained. ISIS has decimated the number of believers. “Some were killed, others fled. From my primary school friends no one stayed. Everybody’s gone. The war left our city shot to pieces and our entire community beaten apart.”
But it doesn’t keep Mathild from going back. She is more determined than ever, and feels a great sense of urgency. “I believe in the mysterious growth of the Kingdom of God, even against the odds. I go back to my church because I know I’m needed there. The church is like my own family. I’ve learned all my life that I can bring my talents to the church. So now I’ll bring what I have. Because if everyone leaves, then there is no church anymore in Syria!”