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News / Thoughts

Fear spreading in Syria…

June 15, 2015

Fighters of Islamic State (IS) are advancing in Syria. The city of Palmyra in the heart of the country recently fell into the hands of IS, and they are getting closer to the relative safety of Aleppo (near the north eastern border with Turkey) and Damascus (in the East near the border with Lebanon). The advance of the militants is a cause of great fear for the more than one million Christians who still remain in Syria.

“Many Christians see fewer reasons to stay in their country because of Islamic State,” says Open Doors worker Roger. “The Christians in Syria also saw what happened to the Egyptian and Ethiopian Christians in Libya. They saw how they were slaughtered after being kidnapped by IS.”

They ask why God is taking them through this. But on the other hand they said they find their strength in Him.

IS is also responsible for the kidnapping of more than 200 Assyrian Christians from the Khabour river region in the northeast of Syria. They were taken hostage from their villages when they were overrun by the fighters of IS at the end of February 2015. Several Christian leaders have told Roger that their church members don’t see hope for a future in Syria.

Recently, Open Doors met with some Christians in Damascus. Roger says: “Of course they are afraid, but they have lived with this reality for years now, so in a way they are used to it. They have questions. They ask why God is taking them through this. But on the other hand they said they find their strength in Him. One of them said: ‘We know that God’s presence is with us’. They try to support each other.”

Where this is happening

‘The Christians want to flee the region’

It’s not only IS militants who are feared by Christians; other extremists are also getting closer in some places. Even in areas where there was no fighting or bombing before, you can now hear explosions.

A pastor from Latakia, a Syrian city on the Mediterranean coast, recently said: “Every day we are going backwards. The armed militias are only 30 km from Latakia. There is no order, no safety. The Christians want to flee the region.

“The other day, a man was kidnapped in the middle of Latakia and the kidnappers called the family asking for a large ransom for his release. The family gathered the money from all their friends and relatives (they are a wealthy family), and the kidnappers let him go. But even in Latakia the situation is dangerous. If people know that you are wealthy they will try to kidnap you.”

The coastal area of Syria is a predominantly Alawite region, a sect of Shia Islam. The Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, is a member of this minority, and many young Alawites serve in the Syrian army. The region is seen as a relatively safe area in Syria where there was previously almost no fighting. Cities like Latakia and Tartus are flooded with internally displaced persons from other regions in Syria.

There have been many explosions recently, even one close to the pastor’s home and one close to his daughter’s school. He says: “The people are afraid. When explosions happen there is nowhere to flee to because you never know where the next explosion will be.”

Please pray

  • Praise God that many Christians are experiencing God’s presence with them in the midst of their sufferings. Ask that they would continue to support each other and find their strength in Him.
  • For God to change the hearts of IS militants and other extremists
  • For wisdom for pastors like the pastor from Latakia and our workers like Roger to know how to support the people of Syria.

A simple text

Want to give financially to help? Send the message ‘ODYG15 £4’ to 70070 to give £4 now. That small amount can provide a week of essential supplies to someone who has been effected by the fighting in Iraq and Syria.

Learn more

The latest video blog from Iraq…
See our Iraq and Syria info-graphic…
Read more about persecution in Syria…
Read more about persecution in Iraq…
Life in Mosul: One year on…
In their own words. The lives of Syrian teenagers…

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