Christians in Syria ‘Strained to the Max But the Church is Enduring
“Aleppo is surrounded by the free Syrian army and cut off from all support for a few days now,” a Syrian believer wrote to Open Doors in July. Aleppo, in the north of Syria, is one of the nation’s largest cities, home to over two million inhabitants before the war. “They cannot get food in, no supplies, and people are becoming more fearful as they are surrounded, expecting a big attack any minute.”
The “big attack”‘ has yet to come but in the meantime the city has been intermittently shut-off to the outside world. For residents of this war torn city, fear and uncertainty have become constant companions.
As the war in Syria drags on into its third year now, the great toll on those helping displaced people and others in need, is beginning to show. “Pastors, social workers and others involved in providing help are strained to the max. The never-ending stream of people who need care, whether it be food, pastoral, material, medical, or otherwise, is overwhelming.”
The Open Doors (OD) coordinator in Syria relates the story of an OD partner there. “His church is not a church building as you may expect, but an apartment. The apartment is now turned into a combination of a church hall, storehouse, and parcel preparing center where people walk in and out constantly. The pastor continues to share God’s word with visitors and also support them the best he can.
“In his free time the pastor goes to his own house, which is just one door down the hall. You can imagine that it is a huge challenge for him to keep a healthy distance, serving the needy but also to have some privacy and enough time for his wife and family.
“The people he meets and cares for are broken. They have little hope and are overwhelmed by fear-fear from hunger, not finding food, fear from explosions. Fear that the war will reach the area where they’re finding shelter now. All this increases pressure on the people themselves and their relationships with others. So please, please pray for situations like this.”
In general the circumstances around the nation are challenging, the country coordinator explains; “churches feel the pressure of the government or other parties to take sides. In a practical way, a main challenge is security for teams and partners offering relief. Obviously the more teams move, the more they are at risk. Economically it is defying as well; the inflation is high and we need to consider wisely about the size and contents of the food parcels. Also, when receiving and transferring money the devaluation of the Syrian Pound is prominent.”
So is there any hope? Humanly, politically and economically there is no quick solution, but there are certainly glimpses of hope. No matter how overwhelming the situation, humans are created with resilience and the will to move forward and overcome whatever they experience. At the end of July, a training session for Young Adults was scheduled in Aleppo. In cooperation with local partners, Open Doors facilitated this meeting with a focus on the biblical definition of “the church,” how to live out your faith as part of the church and ways to testify for Jesus in the war and hard circumstances. The organizers initial hopes for a turn-out of several hundred people were overwhelming exceeded when about 850 young men and women arrived and they were forced to turn away roughly two hundred more due to lack of space. Among those present were several priests and bishops of Roman, Chaldean, Syriac and Armenian churches who shared short, encouraging messages.
The meetings were fruitful and inspiring for the Syrian believers. One of the participants shared, “we have a purpose to bring the church and country back to life.”
Father, we thank You for Your church in Syria and stand amazed at her strength in the midst of on-going civil war. Thank You for the many church leaders and others who work tirelessly to provide various kinds of relief for their fellow countrymen. The needs are great, beyond human ability to provide, and the workers are overwhelmed at times. Encourage and refresh them by Your Spirit within them. Day after day, give them strength to carry on, to meet the needs that come before them. Provide resources, Lord, in miraculous ways that only You can bring about. Thank You for hope when the world around them brings only sorrow and need…always more need. Thank You for the ways You take the “loaves and fish” they have and multiply it to meet those crushing needs. We praise You for the encouragement of the training last month in Aleppo. Strengthen young people who came to stand as leaders of Your people in the coming years, living lives of faithfulness in times of plenty and in times of need; in times of peace and in times of war. In the name of Jesus who sustains and empowers His people even in dark circumstances, Amen.