While much of the world’s attention is focused on the Egyptian elections and American troops withdrawing from Iraq, the situation inside Syria is getting worse, especially for Christians.
There is unrest and chaos in Syria for various reasons. Some of those opposing the government want more freedom from a mistrusted and oppressive regime, while some religious opposition groups want freedom to rule and spread their Muslim faith by force and violence.
Because of months of protests and violence against the government of al-Assad, Syria is on the brink of civil war. Thousands of protesters have been killed. Because of the continued crackdown on the protests, there is an international boycott in place. Inside Syria the central government is losing its grip on the situation.
Christians, in general, are afraid of what might happen to them in the future, especially if hard-line Muslim take over or obtain more freedom and seek revenge against believers. Some Christians have already reported violent acts against them as a sign of more threats and violence to come.
“Criminals, but also radical Muslims, are taking advantage of that lawlessness,” says a field worker for Open Doors. “In the city of Homs, for example, the Sunni Muslims gained power on the streets when the government pulled out its troops for a few days. Some of the radical elements in this group have raided several churches. They robbed the churches of their most valuable things.”
More threatening is that several fundamentalist Muslim taxi drivers have made a vow that they will harm all women taking their taxis who are unveiled. “These women, mostly less orthodox Muslims and Christians, are being kidnapped, raped or even killed,” says the field worker. “Some months ago two Christian women were kidnapped. One managed to jump out of the driving car, but the other was taken. That woman remains missing. This didn’t happen in a remote area of the country but in the capital of Damascus. For women the situation is unsafe now. People still go on with their daily routine, but with more caution.”
According to the worker, throughout Syria people can see the consequences of the boycott of the country. “Petrol is running out, or being preserved or thrown out by opposing groups to create more of an issue within the country. You also see in the supermarkets that products are missing. Prices are rising because of the shortages. People stand in lines for hours just to get a tank of gasoline for heat; sometimes they go away empty. With electricity getting cut for few hours a day, and gasoline and petrol in limited supply, many have become desperate.”Some Christians are planning to escape Syria in case things get worse as they see the quality of life for them decrease and their rights decline. Syria has more than 20 million inhabitants. About 1.5 million Syrians are Christians. The 100,000 Iraqi Christians that fled to Syria because of the situation in their own country are in addition to the 1.5 million Christians.
Open Doors is helping the local churches in Syria by strengthening leadership. “We deliver Christian literature and provide leadership training. We also support Iraqi Christians who found refuge in the country,” says the Open Doors worker.
Father, it grieves us to know that many have been killed and wounded in Syria. Comfort those who mourn the loss of loved ones, heal those who have been injured and protect Syrian citizens from further bloodshed. Lord Jesus, we know that only You can take these tragic events and use them for good. Today we ask that You intervene and restore order and peace in Syria. In the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, Amen.