In war-ravaged Syria, isolation is more harmful than bullets or bombs. Men are dying or fleeing at an astonishing rate, and the women left behind are having to learn to live in a new world. They are now both caretakers for children and the elderly, and providers of food and shelter.
These new roles come with a heavy burden. With no partner to aid them, they fear what lies ahead, and find comfort in having someone to talk to who understands their situation.
Halimah, a women’s trainer for Open Doors, is no stranger to war and misery. She and her family fled Iraq during the Gulf War when she was only seven years old, and Halimah now offers leadership training programmes to groups of Syrian women who are adjusting to changes left by the vacuum of war.
The women receive ministry, fellowship, and a safe place to discuss their goals and fears, and Halimah explained: “The women know I teach from my own experience.”
A single woman isn’t well received in Middle Eastern culture and there is a growing concern among the members of Halimah’s ministry about the uncertainty of their lives. The war has torn apart families, forcing fathers and husbands to give up their lives or flee to neighbouring countries and the women left behind are doing work they’ve never done before. They are driving trucks, carrying water from wells, and filling jobs in the community normally reserved for men.
With so few options available, Halimah counsels many about their rising anxiety and depression.
Halimah’s trainings are more than just a message of independence. “I am surprised by how they are really standing with each other,” she says. “The church plays a good role too, it brings them together.”
A safe environment and basic necessities like running water are a welcome break from the stresses of the women’s daily lives. Halimah provides job trainings and other educational opportunities at no cost, and her classroom has become a safe haven for the women of Syria to express their concerns without disrupting the wider culture.
More than anything, however, these women understand the importance of God’s message and the strength that a church brings to their daily lives. They offer prayers and songs to give each other the energy to move forward. “God is able to do everything. You can see in history that in countries that went through wars, women came out of these wars different,” says Halimah.
The roots Halimah has planted have grown deep and the women are branching out among their own communities. “A woman I had in one of my trainings has since fled the country together with her husband and two children,” she explains. “But in their new country, they are actively involved in helping refugees.”
Small group ministries and Bible study groups are just a small part of the emergence of God’s word in Syria.
- Give thanks for the work of Halimah, and many other women ministering to the emotional ,physical and Spiritual needs of Syrian women and families.
- Give thanks that this ministry is spreading, and the women are starting to also reach out to their communities and beyond, to refugees in surrounding countries.
- Pray that the fruit of this ministry and the seeds of the Gospel that are planted will reap fruit for God’s kingdom, bringing hope healing and life to many Syrian women.
- Pray for the many women and families left in Syria without husbands and fathers. Pray for encouragement, hope, and restoration of families and communities in this war shattered nation.
- Pray for peace to come to Syria.
Psalm 68 vs 5: “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.”