By now, we have all seen the horrifying photo of the three-year-old boy whose lifeless body washed up in Turkey, a victim of humanity’s neglect of the hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of refugees who are trying to escape Syria and other places in the Middle East to seek basic human needs.
Among the many things we can do for these refugees, by far the most important is to pray for them, as the Holy Scripture — and in particular, the Psalms — gives us every indication that God is the Defender of the poor, destitute, abandoned, and forgotten. Indeed, we see just how much God defends such people when our Savior identifies Himself with the hungry, thirsty, sick, naked, and imprisoned in Matthew 25. Our basic responsibility, therefore, is to pray for the Syrian refugees and continually place their cause before Christ.
Here is an Orthodox prayer for the Syrian refugees that will help us do just that. It was adapted from the Seven Litanies published by St. Mark Church in Natick, MA with some changes to make it more relevant to this particular crisis.
O Lord, as Thou hast rescued Israel, Thy people, from the slavery of Pharaoh and the oppression of the Egyptians through the hands of the Holy Archprophet Moses, likewise rescue Thy servants, the refugees of Syria.
Save them from all of their sorrows, O Lord. Repeal their sufferings now. Rescue them from their afflictions and comfort them in their hardships. Protect their souls and bodies. Cover their sins and sustain them in all their conduct. Turn their sorrows into joy. Heal their sufferings and all diseases of their bodies, souls and spirits, both hidden and manifest. Extinguish from them the fiery rage of their enemies, their persecutors, their oppressors and their adversaries. Turn away from them the evil of all the unjust. Look with the sight of Thy compassion upon them, and upon all those in distress among Thy people.
And with Thy Godly mercies, bestow calmness and assurance upon Your Holy Apostolic Church and the lands of Syria, Iraq, Libya, Egypt, and the whole world through the intercessions of the ever Virgin, the Holy Theotokos Mary, all the angels, Apostles, martyrs, and all the saints, forever and ever. Amen.
In addition, there are several Psalms that speak of the Lord defending the poor and oppressed against their enemies. An example is Psalm 81 (LXX, 82 in the Protestant Bible), which says,
God stands in the assembly of gods; and in the midst of them will judge gods. How long will ye judge unrighteously, and accept the persons of sinners? Pause. Judge the orphan and poor: do justice to the low and needy. Rescue the needy, and deliver the poor out of the hand of the sinner. They know not, nor understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth shall be shaken. I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you children of the Most High. But ye die as men, and fall as one of the princes. Arise, O God, judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations.
Moreover, while these prayers are good starting points, one cannot ignore the Divine Liturgy in which we pray for the peace of the Church, the safety of the world, the widows and orphans, and for the Lord to have mercy upon us and His whole creation.
Offering our prayers to God on behalf of the refugees is the best way to do something invaluable for our suffering brethren, but we can also consider donating whatever we can to organizations like Doctors Without Borders, which is actively rescuing refugees stuck in the Mediterranean Sea.
We pray that the Lord may accept these humble sacrifices on their behalf and that He may arise and defend them from all evil.