Syria, Christians Trapped, but in a Peaceful Prison
What is the true situation in Syria? What is the nature of the revolution? Are the Christians in more danger? In Syria, where Christians have known a fair amount of peace under the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, an Open Doors observer sees the church leaders taking “a stand as neutral as possible.” According to BBC reports, the current turmoil has already taken the lives of over 1,800 people. As the second largest Christian minority of the Middle East with more than 1.5 million Christians, they find themselves in a delicate position. Caught in the middle they have enjoyed protection from the current regime; but also realize that political reforms would be good for their country.
When the demonstrations began in March, sources of Open Doors reported that Christians and other minority groups were being attacked in the region of Daraa. They also confirmed that anti-Christian slogans had appeared on some streets. Open Doors observer commented that, “At the start of the demonstrations five months ago, Christians informed us that they had heard protestors shouting, ‘Christians, you men belong to our sword and your women belong to our pleasure!’ But as far as we know now, these incidents did not escalate in wide-spread violence specifically targeting Christians. Actually, amidst the violence, Christians are grateful to the Lord for protection and relative safety, even now.”
Abella (not her real name), a Syrian woman in her early twenties, shared with Open Doors how God has changed her view during the current events. “In the beginning I was so afraid. Every night when I went to bed, fear sneaked in because of all the news I heard and saw on television.” She added that she feared that the situation for Christians would get worse and worse. “But one day I read a text that reminded me of my choir practice with the ‘Peace Choir’ that I am singing in. The name of the choir made me question myself about how I could be part of a ‘Peace Choir’ without having peace in my heart as a Christian.” Abella prayed and spent time with God about this. “I got convinced again that my peace comes from heaven and not from earth. I also pray that other people will receive this peace in their hearts.”
Another young Christian woman, Leah (a pseudonym), said she discovered the importance of unified prayer through all the events in her country. “Before, I didn’t see the importance,” Leah said. “Then I began to see how the people of God are coming together in fasting and prayers, and I understood what it means to be the body of Christ. My faith became stronger because I am not alone in it. I learned how to love Syria more, and how to pray not just for myself, but for bigger needs and for a greater vision.”
So far, Aleppo, the key city of Syrian Christianity, has been quiet; only few people dare to leave the city and even fewer are visiting. A pastor from Aleppo commented, “The roads are dangerous and no one wants to take a risk. We feel trapped, but at least we live in a peaceful prison.”
Father, thank you for the peace the Christians in Syria have experienced and for their opportunity to freely grow in faith as a community. Now, in the violence taking place in their country, give them opportunity to be agents of peace. Give them discernment to know when to speak out and when to remain quiet. And give them courage to stand in Your compassion, peace and strength in the face of danger that they might be a testimony to others of Your sure presence with them. We ask this in the name of Your Son, Jesus.