Life hasn’t been easy for 28-year-old Syrian mother Kristina, a Christian of Armenian descent, who lived with her husband in Aleppo long before the civil war started in 2011.
It was in that besieged city that Kristina gave birth to her firstborn daughter, 18 months ago. She’s brought the little girl to the house where a World Watch Monitor contact meets her. While her mother talks, the toddler explores the room.
With the pain still visible in her eyes, Kristina recalls her first days of being a mother in the spring of 2015 – the war raging outside, electricity, gas and water cut off most of the time and her family unable to visit and help her.
As soon as it was safe, Kristina, her husband and her baby daughter travelled to neighbouring Lebanon to safety. At first it was intended to be a short trip, but when the violence increased and also the Christian part of Aleppo was being bombed, the young family decided to wait for the end of the war before returning to Syria.
With the violence continuing and worsening, gradually more Christians left Aleppo. In Kristina’s church, now only 10 per cent of the regular church-goers are left.
“But you know what’s surprising? The church is still full; displaced people take their place. Especially Muslims are coming to the church now,” she says.
And for many Muslims, it is the first time they have mixed with Christians.
“Many Muslims were genuinely surprised when they met Christian women in our churches willing to serve them. Their image was that all Christian women spend most of their days dancing in night clubs and drinking alcohol! Meeting each other was a shock, both for them and for us,” says Kristina.
Kristina also says the Muslim women were surprised to see that churches offered support and programmes for all Syrians, not just for Christians.
“Their mosques don’t do that,” Kristina says. “Many are re-thinking the faith they grew up in and have dropped their hostility towards Christians.”
A growing number of Muslim children have been attending the children’s activities, where the Bible is opened daily.
“The mothers are okay with that,” says Kristina. “They see it as positive if their children learn about God. It’s the husbands who are stricter, usually.”
But, gradually, the mothers and, in some cases, whole Muslim families have also found their way to the church activities.
“That absolutely did not happen before the war,” Kristina says. “Still the Muslims are afraid – especially when entering and leaving the building – but they are there. The children have opened the church’s doors, then the women followed, and finally the men.”
Despite the war, Kristina speaks of a “golden age” for the Church in the Middle East.
“For the first time in history, Muslims are coming to us. The only thing we have to do is tell them the good news; they are waiting for it,” she says.
- Give thanks for the witness of the Church in Aleppo and Syria at this time, and for the many Muslims who are coming to faith in Jesus Christ through this witness and the care of Christians around them.
- Pray for the Church in Syria, as so many Christians have left. Pray that it will be strong and those Christians remaining will continue to encourage each other and those living around them with the message of Hope and the Gospel.
- Pray for protection for Syria’s Christian community, who are often targeted by both government and rebel forces, as well as the ongoing threat of ISIL.
- Pray that God will continue to draw many Muslims to truly know Him and to come to find hope, healing and life through Jesus Christ.
Psalm 40 vs 3: “He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.”