Women Are Survivors In Syria
In war-ravaged Syria, isolation is more harmful than bullets or bombs. Men are dying or fleeing at an astonishing rate, leaving families with the daily realities of a new country. The women left behind are navigating a new world. They are caretakers for children, the elderly, and providers of food and shelter. These new roles come with a heavy burden. With no partner to aid them, they fear what lies ahead. They find comfort knowing that someone is there to listen and be the foundation for them to build a better future.
Halimah, a women’s trainer for Open Doors, is no stranger to war and misery. She and her family fled Iraq during the Gulf War when she was only seven years old. “The women know I teach from my own experience,” she explains. Halimah offers leadership training programs to groups of Syrian women adjusting to changes left by the vacuum of war. The women receive ministry, fellowship, and a safe place to discuss their goals and fears.
A single woman isn’t well received in Middle Eastern culture. A growing concern among the members of Halimah’s ministry is uncertainty about their fate. “At night, after the course, I have hours of conversations with them about their struggle to find a partner,” says Halimah. The war has torn apart families, forcing fathers and husbands to give up their lives or flee to neighboring countries. The women left behind are doing work they’ve never done before. They are driving trucks, carrying water from wells, and filling jobs in the community normally reserved for men. With so few options available, Halimah counsels many about their rising anxiety and depression.
Halimah’s trainings are more than just a message of independence. “I am surprised by how they are really standing with each other,” she says. “The church plays a good role too, it brings them together.” A safe environment and basic necessities like running water are a welcome break from the stresses of the women’s daily lives. Halimah provides job trainings and other educational opportunities at no cost. Her classroom has become a safe haven for the women of Syria to express their concerns without disrupting the wider culture.
More than anything, what keeps Halimah and her ministry together is their shared faith. They understand the importance of God’s message and the strength that a church brings to their daily lives. They offer prayers and songs to give each other the energy to move forward. “God is able to do everything. You can see in history that in countries that went through wars, women came out of these wars different,” says Halimah.
The roots Halimah planted have grown deep. The women are branching out among their own communities. “A woman I had in one of my trainings has since fled the country together with her husband and two children,” she explains. “But in their new country, they are actively involved in helping refugees.” Small group ministries and Bible study groups are just a small part of the emergence of God’s word in Syria.