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Syria: Christmas in Tartus
22 November 2016
Christmas in Tartus, a city on Syria's coast, won't look the same as it has in years gone by. Pastor B, one of our partners who leads a church in Tartus, says, "Because of the war there is no decoration in the church. There are no lights, no Christmas tree. There is pain in every mouth, even our neighbours, there is pain and a lot of grieving. So we as a church, because we respect their feelings, stop these celebrations."
But they do still celebrate - by serving others. "During Christmas time we go to the camps and we do a play for children. We talk to these children about how Jesus was born in a cave and how Jesus fled from one area to the other, like them, and how God protected Jesus the same way he is protecting them now. And this did not stop Jesus from loving God and obeying his commands. And this is how we should remain also, loving God and obeying his commands.
"When we present the gifts to them, the gifts are brought from the children in the church, and this brings also joy to the families in the church - they learn that the true meaning of Christmas is to go and help those who are in need. Our children they have clothes, but there are children who don't have any clothes; our children have food and they have shoes, but there are children who have neither food nor shoes.
"We celebrate Christmas now by bringing our church members together and bringing things to give to the children who don't have anything. This is one beautiful thing at Christmas."
Watch this short film to hear Pastor B's Christmas prayer for Syria.
Standing with the church in Syria
Pastor B's church in Tartus is supporting 2,000 displaced families every month with the support of Open Doors. He says, "The biggest need is to pay for the rent, and also the need for food supplies and clothes. These families lost their jobs, and lost all their belongings and their homes. And because of them being displaced to these safe areas, the cost of goods in Tartus has risen up ten times, including rent. And now we don't have any houses for rent, and that has caused lots of problems."
Open Doors works through local partners and churches like Pastor B's across Syria. In 2016 we were able to provide support for 12,000 families each month, including food and hygiene packages, blankets, mattresses, winterisation materials, medicines and rent subsidies.
In the first nine months of 2016, Open Doors partners distributed 12,341 Bibles, 1,624 study Bibles, 6,834 children's Bibles, 73,792 New Testaments and other Christian literature. Many displaced people fled their homes with only the clothes they were wearing, leaving their Bibles behind, while others are coming to church for the first time and asking for Bibles of their own. Pastor B says, "People are thirsty to know more about God."
Alongside emergency aid and Bibles, Open Doors partners are also providing long-term support such as trauma care, training and micro-loans. Open Doors partners are also helping some families who have been able to return home to rebuild their houses; this is happening in Maaloula, Homs and Damascus.
Bring hope to the Middle East this Christmas
Here are three ways you can support churches like Pastor B's as they care for their communities this Christmas:
- Pray. Order a free Pray for ME resource pack to help you lead others in prayer for the church in Iraq and Syria.
- Give. Every £42 can provide an emergency food parcel to feed a family of five in Iraq or Syria for a month.
- Speak out. Sign and share the One Million Voices of Hope petition, which will be presented to the UN Secretary General next year.
- For comfort and provision for the people of Syria this Christmas, particularly for those who are displaced
- For protection and healing for the children of Syria who are living through such trauma, and that they will have hope for the future
- That God will continue to work through Pastor B and other church leaders and aid workers as they support displaced families
- For a peace in Syria.
More News from Syria:
- Injured believers find work in furniture factory
- Families return home with your support
- Bringing hope to children as conflict reaches six years
- Islamic State captive finds God moments before execution
- Watch Pastor Edward on BBC Breakfast on Christmas Day
Find out more about persecution in Syria.