After five years of war, a time of constant pressure and violence, Pastor Samuel*, who has been partnering with Open Doors, has been forced to leave Aleppo after ISIL threatened to kill him and destroy his church.
“December 25th was the climax,” the pastor shares. “ISIS fighters threatened me in person. I myself, my house and my church would not be safe if I’d stayed. That moment I realised I couldn’t take it anymore, I could no longer swim against the stream. I had survived being kidnapped, I had survived five years of war, but this was it. I had to leave.”
Days after he left, Pastor Samuel’s house and church where attacked with bombs and set on fire. “The violence is changing. Originally, the main threat was bombardments on the city—general violence that could hit anyone. Over the last few months, the threat has changed. Islamic groups now deliberately target key leaders, especially Christians. They suffer most now.”
After he left Aleppo, the Syrian church leader was invited to visit a group of refugees who have found refuge in a Western country.
He shared: “It felt like a miracle that I was invited to this country. I am able now to serve more than 30 refugee families. We continue to be church here. 65 kids visit Sunday school each week. On a Sunday morning, some 250 people attend the services.”
Even though he left the Middle East, it sometimes still feels like he is still in Syria. “Every day, all day, I am working with my people, trying to link them to the local community here and ministering to them. I thank God that He gave me this new opportunity.”
If he is granted permission to keep working among the refugees, Pastor Samuel will do so. If not, he plans to move back to the Middle East and find a place there to serve the displaced Syrian Christian community.
What of the future of the church in Syria? The pastor shares his concerns: “First of all, the church belongs to the Lord, not to us. That being said, it’s not going to be easy … the majority of the Christians have already left Syria, meaning that the remaining part will be a very small minority in a Muslim-dominated country. I am glad I can put these situations into God’s hands because I really don’t know what is going to remain of Christianity in Syria.”
* not his real name.
- Pray for Pastor Samuel and his family as they adjust to being refugees themselves, as well as serving the refugee community.
- Pray for Syrian Christian refugees, who often find themselves in a hostile environment in refugee camps, even to the point where it is not safe for them to remain there. Pray that they will find places of refuge in Europe, the Middle East and around the world, and know that they are kept in their heavenly Father’s hands.
- Pray for the future of Syria, for healing for her people, for peace in the streets and for the Syrian church to, not only survive, but grow and flourish.
Psalm 91 vs 14 – 15: “Those who love me, I will deliver; I will protect those who know my name. When they call to me, I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble, I will rescue them and honour them“