Syrian Christian Family Faces Horror of War
“Disproportionate suffering affects different minority groups in Syria, including Christians. However, in Aleppo particularly, and in Homs, it is clear there has been disproportionate suffering of Christians and that they are particularly at risk from the war.” This is one of the conclusions of the Vulnerability Assessment Report Open Doors published recently. “In Syria you can easily find stories confirming this. One example of a very brave Christian man from one of the June reports of churches that partner with Open Doors: Aziz* came to our team and requested help as he was beaten and persecuted by extremists. All people of his village were taken prisoner by the rebel Islamic militia and brought to their military camp. All men were separated from their women and children and had to go and buy food. When they came back, most of the food was taken away from them so that they could only give very little to their wife and children. When Aziz, a Muslim background believer, saw his wife and children there again, they were starving, badly beaten and terrified. The soldiers broke the arms of his wife and one of his children.
“The next morning he was asked to get up and pray. He told them that he is a Christian, and doesn’t pray the same way as they do. The rebel fighter insisted that he should pray, but Aziz refused, so he was taken to the Muslim Sheikh. The Sheikh told him: ‘Either you pray or die!’ Aziz said, ‘I was a Muslim and became a Christian, because I saw what Muslims are doing; they rape our women, beat the people and steal from the Christians.’ The Muslim Sheikh didn’t say a word, only told the rebel fighter to send this crazy man away. Aziz went to the pastor of our team and told him what had happened and that the rebel militia demanded $1,000 to release his family. Some other families had paid the ransom already and had been released, but Aziz and his brothers are very poor and had no money to pay. The pastor and our Open Doors team were able help him with some funds and they prayed with him. Finally they were released, but could not return to their village. Rebel fighters occupied his house. Our team helped him to find a house in one of the villages and brought his wife and child to a hospital for treatment. We continue to help this family.”
*For security reasons his name has been changed.
Open Doors Literacy Project Changing Lives in India
A strategic Adult Literacy Project was initiated in India’s Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh in 2009 by Open Doors. This district is known to have the lowest literacy rate amongst all the districts of Madhya Pradesh — an appalling rate of 36.9%. Through regular evening schools, this education initiative has dramatically improved the lives of the mostly Christian population over the past four years.
Most of the students are from the Bhil community in Madhya Pradesh. These also include pastors and lay leaders in Jhabua and neighboring districts. Presently 10 adult literacy classes are continuing to impart reading and writing skills to around 150 people in 10 different villages. An all-India Adult Literacy Exam was held on March 17, 2013 in the Open Doors office in Meghnagar, Jhabua by the State Resource Centre of Indore. This exam is conducted by the government for all adult literacy students to identify those who qualify to take the third standard examination of the government board. A total of 60 learners from the Open Doors classes were present for the examination. Many of these examinees were poor children who had dropped out of their regular school in order to care for and feed their livestock, as well as adults who had never attended school.
Rasiya Damore, 32, hails from Toreniya, Jhabua, where he lives with his wife Leela Damore, 25, and their four children. Despite being a pastor he was illiterate. He learnt to read and write in the adult literacy classes conducted by Open Doors in Meghnagar. “After learning how to read and write, I went and preached the importance of education to my villagers,” Damore stated. “Many of our illiterate villagers who have borrowed a loan from money lenders are cheated by them, as they do not know how to do even minor calculations,” added Damore. Pastor Damore was able to convince many villagers that they could handle many things in a better way through education. He visited houses personally and was able to educate around 20 people in his village. Presently he works as a volunteer in the center of Adult Literacy classes and teaches the students there. “I am planning to complete my high school now,” said Pastor Damore. He plans to serve God and work more effectively in his ministry. His wife Leela Damore is also enthused and grateful to have learned how to read and write through the Adult Literacy classes conducted by Open Doors. She can now read the Bible fluently and be involved in the ministry with her husband.
(For more information or to set up interviews, call Jerry Dykstra at 616-915-4117 or email [email protected]).