Syria has about 677,000 Christians, about 3.6 per cent of a population of almost 19 million. The number of Christians in the country has decreased in the past decade, as many have fled conflict and persecution.
Persecution remains extreme in public and private life for Christians in Syria. Christians from a Muslim background are vulnerable to pressure from their family and communities, who perceive conversion from Islam as bringing dishonour. Sometimes these families even request that local officials covertly monitor Christian converts.
In areas controlled by Islamic extremist groups, public expressions of Christianity are banned and most churches have been seized or destroyed. In government-controlled areas, this threat is less – but there are still numerous abductions of church leaders, and Islamic dissidents are still active. Violent attacks continue, while Covid-19 has exacerbated many existing vulnerabilities in the past year.
“I see men, women and children crying of hunger. It’s tragic. Our church saw that now was a time to stand by the people, support them and show Jesus’ love in difficult times.”Pastor George
Read Pastor George’s story.
Syria’s continuing civil war has made the country a breeding ground for Christian persecution. The unrest, which was beginning to lessen, has been exacerbated by the economic crisis caused by Covid-19.
“Covid-19 has a big impact on Qamishli [in northern Syria]; normal life is almost non-existent,” Pastor George explains. “The number of poor people has increased. Especially those people who are daily labourers who, if they don’t have work today, receive no wages.”
The cost of medicines shot up by 30 per cent in June 2021. Many Christians are particularly vulnerable, as they're still internally displaced or refugees in other countries because of over a decade of war and rising Islamic extremism. In northern Syria, invasion by Turkish forces in late 2019 caused greater instability, and seems to have been used by some Islamic extremists as a cover for opportunities to target Christians.
Pastor George is an Open Doors partner who, like many such partners, has stood with his church through years of conflict, persecution and difficulty. Now he is making sure that his church can be a light in the darkness: “Our church saw that now was a time to stand by the people, support them and show Jesus’ love in difficult times.”
Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in Syria. Your gifts and prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost, particularly during the pandemic.
Open Doors works through partners in Syria to strengthen the church through Bible distribution, discipleship and leadership training, trauma counselling, relief aid and rehabilitation programmes for internally displaced Christians.
Lord God, thank You that You have stood with the church in Syria throughout all the difficulties of the past decade. We pray that You will continue to show Your love to those who have suffered so much. Bring unity and joy to Christians who have had to leave their homes, and solace to those who mourn. May Syria become a country where praise for You resounds loudly. Amen.
Your support helps persecuted Christians continue to courageously follow Jesus.
Together, we can reach those where persecution hits hardest.