On the surface, the news from Syria appears completely bleak. An estimated, “300,000 people are now refugees from Syria, that’s triple the level of just three months ago,” reports Jerry Dykstra from Open Doors. In spite of the traumatic and chaotic circumstance, God continues to draw people to Himself. Dykstra adds, “We hear reports that many Christians are sharing with their Muslim neighbors. So even in the midst of this terrible tragedy, we see the Lord working.”
“The violence has pushed people out of their homes, fleeing for their lives,” a Christian pastor in Syria paints a picture for Christians in the West of the rapidly deteriorating, horrific conditions in the war-torn country. “Many are displaced internally and many others are external refugees living in the most humiliating circumstances, deprived of even shelter, clean water, power, food and medical care.”
“Millions are not sleeping in their own beds,” he adds, “forced out of their homes to find themselves with their children homeless and living in public parks or in the wilderness. Others are not sure if they or their children and loved ones will see the light of a new day. Tens of thousands of families lost loved ones – a child, a father, a mother or a husband. Hundreds of the injured died for lack of medical care. Thousands of children go to bed terrified of the sound of shelling. Hundreds of thousands are in camps in neighboring countries.”
“My people are hurting. I can cry like Nehemiah because the walls of our cities are burnt and the people in great trouble and disgrace. I can weep like Jeremiah because of the intensity and the spread of evil. I can mourn like David because of the indiscriminate brutal killing of innocent people; children, women, elderly, youth subject to shelling or under the rubble of their homes.”
Over the past 20 months, the civil war between President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and the Free Syrian Army has caused approximately 30,000 casualties, mostly civilians, according to several reports. The high death toll, however, is only part of the fallout from the civil war. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the country into such neighboring countries as Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon, according to the United Nations. In addition, about 2.5 million Syrians need aid inside the country, with more than 1.2 million of them being domestically displaced.
The cities of Aleppo and Homs have become especially dangerous for Christians. “A lot is being destroyed in Aleppo,” one of Open Doors’ contacts in the city reports. “Extreme violence is being experienced in the last few weeks. You can see the results of it in the old city and in other neighborhoods and surrounding villages. There is a lot of destruction. We see that their apartments are easily confiscated by the rebels to be used for snipers,” the spokesman continues. “The Christian community is the only group that doesn’t fight back or doesn’t protect property with guns. So when the rebels search a place to stay or to use for their battle, they choose the houses and apartments of the softest target – the Christians.”
While the situation is difficult at best, Dykstra admonishes Christians to learn from the example of these believers. “Even in their brokenness, they’re continuing to minister to others. And I think they’re very concerned about their families and their future, but I don’t think that’s deterring them from sharing the Gospel when it’s appropriate.” In the midst of turmoil, the believers are finding new strength and urgency in their witness.
The Christian pastor in Aleppo testifies to the resolve and courage of local believes in spite of the terrible conditions. “We are here for a divine reason; we trust and rely on our sovereign loving Lord. We believe that we are in the midst of a spiritual war. In this country there are many who are much more effective than we militarily, politically, economically and socially, but none have the privilege of being effective in this spiritual battle like we are.”
“We thank God because the Church is united across the country in prayer 24 hours a day, seven days a week; praying for the glory of God to dwell in the Church, praying for an end to the bloodshed, praying for peace in the country, praying for keeping the church’s faithful witness, to reach out to the suffering, to share the divine cure of the gospel, to speak the word of the Lord in all boldness.” The pastor adds, “We deeply appreciate the prayers of God’s people everywhere; it is a rare time where the Church in Syria is feeling the true oneness of the body of Christ all over the globe. For this, we thank the Lord, for it is a great encouragement to us.”
Father, thank You for the testimony of the Syrian church as they minister boldly in the midst of the chaos of their lives. Along with them, we pray for Your glory to dwell in the church. We pray for an end to the bloodshed and for peace in the country. Continue to strengthen the church to be a faithful witness to the suffering people around them, to share boldly the gospel of Christ in the midst of the darkness. In the name of Jesus whose name we exalt, Amen!