Syria: Christians seeking to stay in their country
Samir, his wife and two little children are still living in Aleppo. But for how long will this Christian family be willing to continue there? “We are afraid,” Samir admits. “Islamic State (IS) is coming closer and closer. We hear daily explosions, shootings. The explosions become bigger and louder.” Samir works in a children’s ministry in one of the churches in Aleppo, a job which he says he can “still do” despite the circumstances, simply because they are used to it. But his mind still wanders to the life the family could have away from the constant bombing and threats. “To be honest, we think about leaving Syria more than we did before,” he says. “The situation is difficult.”
“I think more than half of our church has left. Most of them dream of going to Europe. Almost every day I say goodbye to someone from the church. The work we did before with eight volunteers, we now do with four. We lack leaders, they’re gone. It’s very hard to continue doing the work.” Still, even though the situation in the biggest city in Syria is challenging, Samir is planning a children and youth camp in Aleppo. It will be in a safe location away from the church building, which is too close to the fighting. As he says, “they need to have fun to forget all the terrible things that happen around them.”
“We expect some 70 participants, most of them children,” Samir adds. “Children need to have a good time together; they need to play.” There is no denying the situation in Syria remains immensely difficult. Having spoken with a wide range of church leaders of local churches and contacts, Open Doors now estimates around 25 per cent of Syria’s 1.8 million Christians have left the country since the civil war began in 2011. By the end of August this year, the number of refugees from Syria in surrounding countries was over three million – but with no organisations (including the United Nations) registering religious status, it is impossible to tell exactly how many Christians are amongst them.
We continue to support our brothers and sisters in Syria. Open Doors currently assists local churches by providing 9000 families with food, medicine, rent subsidies and other supplies – 2000 of those families are in Aleppo alone. We are also offering leadership and trauma awareness training, providing empowerment training to church leaders to help them become involved in the huge relief operation to internally displaced Syrians and also supplying Christian literature. And we are constantly reminded that God is at work. Although believers like Samir are dismayed at how many are leaving the church, there are also millions of internally displaced Syrians on the move within the country.
CryOut to the Father
- for the brave Syrian believers who have decided to stay in the country. Pray that they will be strengthened by the Lord to do their work.
- that many people may see the love of the Lord through the work of the brothers and sisters who serve in churches and assist internally displaced Syrians. Praise God for those coming to know Him through His believers at this turbulent time.
- for wisdom for those deciding whether to stay in Syria and Iraq or leave for another country. Pray they will lean on God for answers and stay firm in their faith.