What is Open Doors doing in northern Syria?
Open Doors is on the ground through partner churches and groups in northern Syria. “Before the Turkish incursion that started on Wednesday, October 9, we were already working through one church denomination, our main partner in the North [of Syria],” Aziz says. “We worked in Malikiyah, Hasakah and Qamishli. These three places have the biggest populations of Christians in the north of the country.
“We supported the church in these places with financial help for relief as food and hygiene packages or vouchers, medical aid and winterization support. We just had transferred new money to the churches for this, as normally families spend more on schooling of the children in October. But then the [Turkish conflict] happened. We immediately said to the churches to use the money as much as possible for those families who directly were hit by this attack.”
In the first moments of the conflict between the Kurds and Turkey, the general expectation was that a big displacement of civilians would take place, including many Christians who would want to leave. “[With the] expectation that this could turn into a big crisis, we responded [right from the] start,” Aziz says. “It was amazing that we immediately could start helping people and that so many people around the world prayed. Maybe these prayers were heard; after some days, the situation calmed down.”
Early in the crisis, about 90 families were displaced to Hasakah. They are supported through Open Doors’ partner organization. “That city is farther away from the Turkish border and from what the Turkish want as a safety zone in Syria,” Aziz says. “In Hasakah ,we work through the Alliance Church and now have an agreement with the Syriac Orthodox church. By now, we think it unlikely that the situation will deteriorate further.” In addition to helping the 90 families, churches have helped individuals as well.
What are the continuing needs and how can I help?
Believers pray for peace and relief in Qamishli, Syria.
First: Continue to pray for Christians in northern Syria. Even with a ceasefire, the needs are great—the Christian community was already stretched thin recovering from a civil war and the brutality of ISIS. The chaos caused by a new conflict between Turkey and Kurdish militants has resulted in new displaced people, new challenges for local churches and pain for people who have suffered as a result of the brief conflict.
Please also continue to pray that ISIS will not regain a foothold in this part of Syria. Pray that God will give wisdom to all the parties involved—Turkey, Kurdish militants, Russia, Syria, the United States, and other international groups—to keep ISIS from attacking Christians and returning to a reign of terror over believers.
You can also help Christians on the ground in Syria with immediate relief, both for this conflict as well as for continuing needs due to ISIS attacks and the impact of a decade-long civil war. As Aziz noted, the needs before this most recent conflict were already great—now, they are even greater.
And finally, thank God for the ceasefire. Pray that peace continues, even as reports suggest there may be skirmishes still taking place. Pray for Christians to remain safe and that they would be salt and light to their neighbors and communities, helping to be the church in a dark time and a chaotic place.