The Arab Nightmare: Unlikely Miracles & Life as a Christian in Syria
The United Nations has stated that more than 70,000 people have died during the past two years of unrest in Syria. It seems as if every day there are more and more casualties from this ongoing conflict. Many Christians become victims simply because of their faith.
“The violence in Syria continues to increase and Christians are becoming a target of many extremists,” says Katia, a Syrian Christian. “A few years ago, we observed many of the same Christmas traditions that Christians in other parts of the world do. We would display our Christmas tree in the window, have a Christmas service on Christmas morning and would share the Christmas story with others on the street afterwards. This past year, if someone was fortunate enough to get a Christmas tree, they could not display it in the window of their home, as they knew it was not wise to bring attention to their household. Christians gathered together for only a short amount of time for the Christmas service, to avoid large gatherings.”
When the Arab Spring began, the crisis in Syria was not in full bloom. As the months and now years of increased violence continue, many Syrians do not refer to this as the Arab Spring, but as the Arab Nightmare. There is more unrest this year than last year because Christian areas are a target of violent attacks. In one city, for example, all Christians have lost their homes and are left to face extreme circumstances. Some have had guns pointed at their heads, telling them to leave. Other Christians were kidnapped or even raped. In the end, many of their homes were completely destroyed.
“I don’t want to confuse the rebels with the extremists, or Muslims with Muslim extremists,” says Katia. “In the beginning, this revolution had just one motive-to protest the regime. Today, many extremists have been mixed in with those with pure motives. However, these extremists have a different end goal-to spread extreme Islam. The majority of Christians have made it a point to remain neutral with the political crisis in Syria. However, some extremists have an agenda to show that the majority of Christians have sided with the regime, which gives some extreme rebel movements an excuse to set car bombs in the Christian areas.”
Despite the violence and unrest, God is allowing miraculous events to unfold in Syria.
“Many Christians have fled Syria because of the violence,” Katia shares. “But there are many who have remained, as they feel God has called them to stay, “for such a time as this.” God is using them in mighty ways! They have been using the churches as places to pass out food, water and other materials to Christians and non-Christians alike. There is often a sermon and an invitation to accept Jesus. Many have turned to Christ through this ministry. One man in particular who came to one of these churches seemed as if he was a Muslim extremist. He was shouting fanatical religious statements which made many feel uneasy, so the church leaders kept an eye on him. By the end of the service, this man had accepted Christ as his Savior! A man who initially seemed like a threat is now a brother in Christ.”
Many churches do not have much to give, but give what they can. Churches and denominations that were once divided have united in prayer and are reaching out to the people of Syria. The main way they would like to reach out to Syrians this year is by providing two life-changing gifts to children: a sweater and a Children’s Bible.
“The churches wanted to encourage the children of Syria during this time,” Katia explains. “During the winter months, they needed something warm to wear, so they gave children who came to the church a sweater. They also provided them with a Children’s Bible- as an encouraging gift to the Christian children and a gift to reach out to those who do not know Christ. Please pray that the gifts that the church gave will be a blessing to those who received them.”
Katia also asks for prayers for the safety and strength of the Christians who have chosen to remain in Syria- that God would not only protect them, but would provide them with His never-failing strength.