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Syria and Iraq are still recovering from ISIS and war—Christians left the countries in droves, and many haven’t returned. There is real fear the church could “evaporate,” in the words of one church leader in the region where Christianity has been active for thousands of years.
Open Doors estimates that
1 million of the 1.8 million
Syrian Christians fled the country during the civil war.
And while there were 1.5 million Christians in Iraq in the early 1990s; we now estimate there to be around 200,000 believers.
ISIS wanted to destroy the church from the root,
and the question remains: Will they succeed?
The answer must be NO!
The Syrian Civil War begins
As part of the Arab Spring uprising, protests in Syria over the government turn into a civil war that has lasted for nearly a decade. Extremist groups like ISIS have used the unrest to brutally oppress groups like Christians.
The rise of ISIS
By late 2014, the group claimed more than 100,000 square kilometers of territory, which was home to 12 million people. Much of this land was in Iraq and Syria. ISIS would commit genocide against religious minorities—like Christians—in the territory they controlled.
The Hope for the Middle East campaign
Realizing the situation for Christians in Iraq and Syria was extremely dangerous, Open Doors began its seven-year Hope for the Middle East campaign. In the years since, believers around the world have prayed and given to support their brothers and sisters in Iraq and Syria as they rebuild and resettle.
The fall of ISIS
By the end of 2017, much of ISIS' territory in Iraq and Syria was reclaimed. Refugees—including Christians who had fled—begin to return and rebuild their ruined homes, churches and communities.
Noeh presents a petition at the United Nations
Noeh, an Iraqi teenager, presented a petition spurred on by Open Doors—signed by more than 800,000 people—to the United Nations' Secretary General's office. It was the largest statement so far about the commitment of Christians around the world to advocate for Christians in Iraq and Syria who were in danger.
Turkey invades northern Syria
The people in northeast Syria faced yet another crisis in the midst of a nine-year war. Turkey invaded northern Syria in order to defeat Kurdish forces Turkey viewed as terrorists. Open Doors estimated there were 40,000 Christians at risk in the region—and prisons full of ISIS fighters who could have escaped. Thankfully, Open Doors' partners in the region sprang into action and helped the people affected.
COVID-19 pandemic comes to the Middle East
As the novel coronavirus swept through the global population, Syria and Iraq were no different. Christians in the two countries had unique challenges, however, as years of war, attacks from extremists and economic instability made it incredibly hard for the Christian community to survive. Through the gifts and prayers of Open Doors supporters, partners in Iraq and Syria were able to help Christians survive and continue to live out the gospel.
More churches become Centers of Hope
Open Doors started the Centers of Hope project in Iraq and Syria several years ago. Centers of Hope are active, local churches that are supported with a number of hope-giving projects. Thanks to the gifts and prayers of Open Doors supporters, in Iraq, 65 percent of all churches have been transformed into Centers of Hope. In Syria, 20 percent of churches have transformed into a Center of Hope or are part of a larger Center of Hope.
Our seven-year global campaign aims to restore hope to the church in the Middle East—so that they can be a source of hope to their communities, their countries, and their region. It’s about seeing the Church rise up to be salt and light in the Middle East once again.
We stand with our brothers and sisters in Iraq and Syria in many ways, including funding Centers of Hope such as Pastor George’s church, writing letters of encouragement, advocating for believers on the world stage and also by praying with them.