It is a dark abyss for the Church in Iraq and Syria. Displaced, threatened, robbed, humiliated and unwanted – an almost impossible position for church communities with ancient history in the region.
Despite the destruction, this nearly eradicated Church is more relevant than ever before. In regions which repel ISIL, the Church is the only hope for hundreds of thousands of Christian refugees. In the city of Erbil, for instance, Christian churches of almost all denominations provide aid and shelter to Christians who have fled from the Nineveh plains after ISIL seized control.
Robert, Open Doors’ coordinator for Syria and Iraq, sees how the destruction of Christian towns, churches and monasteries is affecting the church in different ways:
“From the very start of the crises in Iraq and Syria, churches spontaneously formed an approachable relief network. Displaced Christians asked for help at local churches and monasteries. It was there they met pastors and parishioners who provided them with their essential needs. In most cases they still do.”
“Syrian Christians are trying to cope with more than seven million Internally Displaced Persons. In addition, we observe a new development best described as an ‘internally displaced church.’ Every now and then we discover complete parishes adrift. Islamic State confiscated their church building, demolished their valuables and burned their Bibles.
“Despite this, the priest and his deacons continue holding services and celebrating liturgy. Functions are fulfilled and prayers ascend to God. All tangible elements of the church have disappeared, yet the church as the Body of Christ still functions. Arduously and flawed, but it still functions.”
- Give thanks that the Church in Iraq and Syria is still alive and functioning, albeit in very arduous circumstances.
- Give thanks for the work of Open Doors in helping the Iraqi and Syrian Church and Christians with both practical aid and Spiritual support. Pray that they can continue to operate there despite the difficult circumstances.
- Pray for Christians in Syria, to know the daily presence of God within and around them, to “hold fast to the confession of their faith without wavering” and to continue to share the love of God with the people around them.
- Pray for healing in relationships between Christians and Muslims in Syria and Iraq.
- Pray for peace in the embattled nation, and for protection on the Church, that it will grow as an oasis of peace for many people.
Matthew 16 vs 18: “And I tell you … on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”