14 Ways to Stand and Pray With Syrian Believers–as Deadly War Rages On
The rise of ISIS and the massacre of Christians.
More than 5 million refugees.
Over 400,000 people killed.
These are just a few of the headlines to come out of Syria’s ongoing civil war that continues to escalate. The global conflict has consumed the world’s news headlines since it began in March 2011, primarily because the human cost of war has perhaps never been more stark or obvious.
For Christians in Syria, the war that has lasted nearly eight years has created two-pronged suffering–on the one hand, the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad brutally puts down rebels, with little-to-no thought for civilian populations; and on the other, rebel groups comprised of radical Islamist groups attempted to purge Christianity from Syria. All Syrians suffered under crippling economic realities, with some estimates suggesting that 70 percent of the country’s residents live in “extreme poverty,” and are unable to meet food needs.
And yet, even with the tumult of war marching on, there are beacons of hope. ISIS has been dispersed from their Syrian strongholds; the city of Aleppo, so infamous in the midst of the civil war, is on its way to recovery; and some Christians are returning home to rebuild their lives and their communities. God has not given up on Syria! We continue to hear that He is on the move, and the gospel is breaking through barriers in the country torn apart by war.
It can be difficult for Christians in the West to know how best to stand and pray with our brothers and sisters in Syria. Open Doors works with local partners on the ground in Syria and so we asked: How can we pray with believers in Syria, and what are some ways that God is moving there?
Here’s what they told us—we hope you’ll join us in prayer with Syrian Christians and continue to pray for peace and strength for those walking out their lives and their faith through the realities of war:
- Thank God for an event for women in Aleppo. About 70 women between 16 and 70 years old learned diverse skills to help them earn their own living. “At the end of the event, all women received a crown because they are all queens of something,” says 20-year-old Sandy, part of the organizing team. Pray for the many women in Syria who are now on their own, especially for the elderly and the ones with children at home. Many men in the army died in the war or left the country.
- Fighting continues. Although Syria might not be in the headlines anymore every day, the war is not over. Fighting continues in various places in the country, even very close to the capital city of Damascus and the city of Aleppo. Pray that those involved in the conflict will stop the bloodshed and will work together towards peace.
- Elderly people in Syria are an extremely vulnerable group. Many have weak health because of their age. Their children have relocated outside the country, leaving behind their aged parents with almost no support. Thank God for the churches and local organizations who continue to help those people.
- Pray with Father Ghassan Ward of the Greek Orthodox Church in Aleppo–an example of the loss created by war. “I lost everything in the war,” he says. “My bishop was kidnapped, my church and my house were ruined by rockets, and I lost my wife two years ago to cancer. I lost my two sons who had to leave the country to stay out of the army. I lost two close family members to a bomb. So you can say I am like many Syrians who also lost everything.”
- Thank God for new business opportunities for Syrian Christians. Through local churches, Open Doors offers Syrians new opportunities to earn an income. Through farms, factories, pharmacies, bee-keeping and other types of businesses, we are praying that Syrians will be able to earn their own living. Through churches and local organizations, we also want to provide micro-loans. Says Father Sami, a Jesuit priest in Syria: “We now focus on these other projects; we need to prepare the people for the future.”
Thank God for people who found a job through the income-generating project you helped start in Syria. Elay Tufenkjy is one of those who found work. As a pharmacist, she now works in a pharmacy founded by Open Doors donors. “This is a very good opportunity for me,” she says. “It’s very comfortable to have a job and an income now.” Syrian Priest Antoine Tahan adds: “The people need jobs to no longer be dependent on food packages and other help.” With the profits of this first pharmacy, the priest could open another pharmacy elsewhere in the city. Pray for those initiatives and for the ones that will start this year. Pray that the Lord will give wisdom to those who need to decide about funding.
- Pray for Yacoub Habib. He once was a rich man with his own business in Aleppo; now he depends on the help of others. He gets support from one of the Protestant churches in the city. “I had my own company in Aleppo whitening jeans,” he says. “I had a good life, had my own house, a car, and I invested money in the factory. In 2013, the area was bombed, and I lost everything, and ended up in this apartment.” The apartment is simply furnished, lacking almost all basic things. His bed is a mattress on the floor. He heats the apartment by burning paper in the stove—paper he collects in the streets. “I was so ashamed. In the first months, I hid myself inside. I kept the windows closed, didn’t really take care of myself. I started smoking, drinking. I was big, now I am nothing,” he says, candidly. With the help of the church, Yacoub received some furniture and could get his life organized again.
- Thank God for over 21,000 Syrians that were able to participate in various trainings in 2017. Most of the trainings were offered through indigenous churches Open Doors partners with. Many focus on discipleship; additionally, Syrian Christians were trained in leadership, trauma awareness and trauma care. Specific discipleship training also was offered, focusing on believers coming from a Muslim background.
- Praise God for Emad Shakaz (age 24) who participated in leadership training and is now equipped and feels empowered for youth ministry in his church. He shares: “What impacted me most was talking about emotions and formulating a life goal. Those were new things for me. I learned better how to respond to the big questions that [young people] have and how to think outside the box. The courses have helped me to understand and apply the Bible and also to teach this to others.”
Pray with believers like Danny Maida in Homs, Syria, who also participated in leadership training. Thank God for leaders like Danny who stayed in Syria where many young people from their generation have already left the country. Pray that they will see fruit in their work and that they will impact many Syrian children.
- Pray for the plans of several churches in Syria to open Centers of Hope supported by Open Doors. These centers will equip local partner churches to care for their people and serve the wider community through gospel ministry, servant leadership, biblical discipleship, job creation and trauma counseling. In 2018, we hope to have 20 of those centers (each center serving 500 to 1,000 families) spread across Syria. Pray that these places and the teaching and activities they provide will indeed bring hope to the Syrians
- Pray with Father Sami, a church leader in Aleppo, who believes the church has an important task. “We want to create understanding between the different religious groups in the country,” he explains, adding that the church has started a clinic, distribution and educational center in Eastern Aleppo. “It is the first time the church has a presence in this Muslim environment,” he says.
- Pray with churches in Aleppo for the return of two Christian bishops, Yohanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yazigi. April 22 will mark five years since they were kidnapped; to date, there has been no sign of their whereabouts. Join their churches who continue to pray in hope that their church leaders will return.
- Thank God for the Christians who stayed in their country–for the priests and pastors, for the church members who made the choice to remain in Syria and to serve God in their native land. Pray that God will give them the strength to stay and that He will impart wisdom to all involved in helping the people and Church of Syria.
Please continue to lift up Syrian and your brothers and sisters in prayer.