This month is the fourth anniversary of the start of a bloody and destructive civil war in Syria. For the last few months a pastor in the war-torn city of Aleppo has been reporting what Syrian Christians face on a daily basis. Today he reflects on the fear Christians are experiencing because of last week’s kidnapping of 200 to 300 Christians by the Islamic State (IS).
This week the main question that most of our families are struggling with is: “Shall we wait to be killed or shall we leave the country?” The question came up, once more, when fanatic jihadists of the Islamic State attacked Assyrian Christian villages on the margins of the Khabour River and destroyed their homes and burned churches. But above all, IS kidnapped more than 200 to 300 Christians.
After the attacks on Mosul in Iraq, families left that country. Here in Aleppo there is always the fear that the extremists will come nearer and attack and kill us. Now the families here are aware of what is happening in the eastern parts of Syria. They feel that no one is helping the Christians in eastern Syria or even trying to rescue them. This makes their fear increase as the Islamic State is only 19 miles away from our city.
In the past few days, many people have asked me questions such as: “When will we see persecution by IS? Are we waiting for the extremists to come nearer to attack us and do things that even animals don’t do? We don’t have to be lambs to be butchered! Where are the Western countries, churches, organizations and the politicians? Where are their voices and acts? Why should we stay if this barbaric danger is in front of us? Why don’t the western countries or even churches rescue us by taking us from here?”
I attempted to reply by saying the main issue is to keep the faith and to continue to pray for our Lord’s intervention and peace. Most of the people’s reaction was: “Since four years we have been praying, but still we see no peace. For four years we have been praying and then see what happened to the 21 Members of an ethnic religious group from North Africa but primarily Egypt, where they are the largest Christian denomination in the country. More Christians in Libya killed by IS. Since four years we are praying and see what happened now to the Assyrians. Should we continue to pray and wait for the jihadists to come and slaughter us? Are we going to be massacred, again, like 100 years ago (1915) when the Turks massacred us and we lost more than a million Armenian Christians?”
During my conversations with one of the families, we heard two rockets explode that were fired by the opposition forces. They exploded far from us, around a quarter-mile away. But the rockets hit a Christian residential area. The rockets killed a 50-year-old father and a 20-year-old female university student. More than 10 people were injured and many buildings were damaged.
A man said to me: “Did you hear the sound of the explosions? How shall we keep our families in this chaotic situation? Pastor, please find us a way to leave…for the sake of my children. We are not able to have patience and wait anymore.”
It was very hard for me to have answers or solutions, except trying to help by praying and telling the people to continue to be faithful and to wait for God’s direction for their families. Lord, have mercy on us!
Syria is ranked No. 4 on the Open Doors 2015 World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians.
Compiled by Jerry Dykstra. For media inquiries, contact Christine Cape at 404-545-0085 or Katie Rouse at 678-410-9575.