Pastor Samuel in Aleppo, Syria recently met with youth from his church. They talked about their “boring life” in the midst of the civil war, that it is a form of house arrest. During their conversation, the pastor helped them see the positive potential of being forced to remain at home so much.
Syria is now in its fifth year of a bloody and destructive civil war. Pastor Samuel (pseudonym) from Aleppo, Syria’s biggest city, reports regularly to give us insights into what Syrians face daily.
Schools closed for the summer early this year in Aleppo. Due to the volatile situation in the city, many of the schools closed their doors in May. During the school-season the schools were sometimes forced to close, but in general many students were able to attend school. Now local students are in the middle of their prolonged summer holidays.
One month into the summer vacation, Pastor Samuel met with 17 teens from the church. The main focus of their two-hour visit was finding out how they are all doing and what their days look like during the summer vacation. Their comments painted a clear picture of what their days are like right now in Aleppo.
The pastor heard sentiments like, “Life is boring. Sleeping is the best solution to spend your time.” As they have nothing to do and nowhere to go whether during the day or night, most of them sleep until around noon. “It seems that our normal life is not to live in peace. So, sleeping, eating and if we are lucky, chatting to some friends, are the best options for spending our time.”
Another expressed a despairing outlook on life, “Life is like a joke. Within a minute you can die from an explosion. So, why bother to take life seriously and invest time in good things. Just doing nothing is the best solution.”
All of the teens struggle with the lack of interaction with the outside world. For over three months, there has been no Internet connection in Aleppo, so they cannot connect via Internet with relatives and friends who live outside the country. “Useless life, why we should live?” one of them asked.
“Our parents don’t let us to go out,” another complained. “We’re just staying in our houses, we cannot go out. We have to stay home, simply because it is not safe to be outside. We are not doing anything, just yelling at each other.”
One described their feeling as “having no dream for the future except searching for a way to leave the country.” Some are struggling with questions of why they were born in Syria. “Why do young people in other countries have freedom to fulfill their dreams and here we are not able to even see each other because of the war? How long do we have to wait? This is the fifth year of war. So why should we bother to do anything; our life is useless; we have no hope for the future.”
“After hearing all these things, I tried to help them to look at their lives from a different perspective,” Pastor Samuel shared. “They should find the positive side of staying home. I tried to help them see the benefit of being at home and challenged them to make a kind of daily schedule.”
He offered them practical suggestions for redeeming these seemingly useless days. “For example, they could spend time to grow spiritually by taking more time to read the Bible to receive more biblical knowledge. Of course they can meditate on the Word of God, too. I also suggested spending more time in prayer. Pray and trust the Lord that He knows better, that His will is perfect. They also could pray for each other. This will strengthen our faith and help us to stay united and faithful to God, to each other and to the church. Besides that, they could use all the time at home to study by reading all kinds of books and, for example, study foreign languages.
“After sharing all this, we prayed and we agreed to meet after one month to follow up on what we planned.”
Father, we bring before Your throne of grace today the Christian youth of Syria who live in the midst of almost constant fighting, confined to their homes without direction or hope. Give them a hunger for Your Word and for time with You in prayer, that they might be encouraged in hope and that You might direct them in constructive ways to fill their time and build their faith. As they look toward the years of adulthood drawing near, guide them in important decision like whether to leave the country or join the Syrian army for compulsory military service. May You, “our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by [Your] grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage [their] hearts and strengthen [them] in every good deed and word.” (2 Thess. 2:16-17) In the name of Jesus who knows their suffering and loves them with an everlasting love, Amen.