5 Pastors in Iraq and Syria Speak Out: What Can We Learn From Their Faith?
How can we continue to pray for the leaders of the Middle East Church as they work toward healing?
Very few things bring us closer to our Savior than crisis. As we’ve reported on the ISIS war and its impact on Christianity in the Middle East, we’ve had the privilege of hearing from stalwart leaders of churches in Iraq and Syria–figures of hope and restoration who have endured and persevered through unimaginable terror and persecution. As Pastor Simon says below, these leaders “meet with people in their pain.”
Below, we highlight what we can learn from church leaders on the front lines of faith–and how we can continue to pray for them as they work to rebuild the walls.
“Every crisis makes us stronger.”
“It is not clear what the future will look like,” says Archbishop Yohanna Petros Mouche (Bahiqa, Iraq). “We have this issue between the Kurdish and Iraqi governments … In Iraq, things are never guaranteed. Our future is in the hands of God. We pray that life will be better than it was before. But we see that the Christians have become stronger because of the crisis. Every crisis makes us stronger. You see that the Church became everything for the Christians.”
“All I can do is trust God.”
“It is our mission to live here in this place as Christians, the place of the root of Christianity,” shares Father Thabet (Karamles, Iraq). “Without faith, I do not have a reason to stay here. But I have faith, so I am here … Of course [this fear] is normal, but the situation for Christians in Iraq has always been unstable. I think safety is increasing, and it will only increase more when people will start living here again. All I can do is trust in God.”
“The church belongs to the Lord, not to us.”
“December 25 was the climax. ISIS fighters threatened me in person,” recalls Pastor Samuel* (Aleppo, Syria). “I myself, my house and my church would not be safe if I’d stayed. I had survived being kidnapped, I had survived five years of war, but this was it. I had to leave … First, the church belongs to the Lord, not to us. That being said, it’s not going to be easy… the majority of the Christians have already left Syria, meaning that the remaining part will be a very small minority in a Muslim-dominated country. I am glad I can put these situations into God’s hands because I really don’t know what is going to remain of Christianity in Syria.”
“Peace comes through a personal experience of the presence of God.”
“We, as the Syrian church, experience the fear of the Lord, His sovereignty, His greatness, and His power,” Pastor Edward (Syria). “Peace comes through a personal experience of the presence of God. We have learned that the fear of the Lord and the peace of God are connected; they go together. Habakkuk’s life changed because of this experience of the presence of God. He didn’t get all the answers, but God was sufficient for him. When there is nothing, ‘I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.’”
“The Lord has not yet told me to leave.”
“God strengthens me through an organization like yours that helps us to support the people and even helps with retreats for church leaders,” shares Pastor Simon* (Syria). “The Lord has not yet told me to leave. When I meet with people in their pain, I see that my presence makes a big difference. They say, ‘Don’t leave us here.’”
Please pray for Archbishop Mouche, Father Thabet, Pastor Samuel, Pastor Edward and Pastor Simon as they lead the present and future Church in the Middle East.
- God would continue to impart to them insight and a passion for His people.
- These leaders would have wisdom and discernment as they talk about forgiveness and healing.
- Pray for them personally, for protection, stamina and endurance in the coming days, weeks, months and years.
Want to hear from more leaders and persecuted believers? We give you the information and insight to help you pray specifically for your brothers and sisters in Christ.