Pastor George Moushi leads a church in Qamishli, northern Syria. His church responded when the region was invaded by Turkish forces last autumn, providing vital aid for many vulnerable Syrians. Many of you generously gave and faithfully prayed for his community, and your support kept them going as they faced a very visible threat – bombs, soldiers, Islamic extremists.
In 2012, a year after the war broke out, Pastor George’s church began sending out food packs for those in need. Pastor George explains:
“Through our relief and support programmes, we tried to build relationships with people, opening doors for them to know Jesus. The best hope we can offer is the hope that Jesus Christ offers.” People are helped without any conditions attached. “But we offer always the message of Jesus too, depending how open the door was. We didn’t only want to fill the stomach of the people.”
Because of this work, the church began to grow. “A lot of people accepted Christ and were added to the church. Although the war was so awful, God turned ashes into beauty – a lot of people came to Christ.
“The war made people from a Muslim background question their faith. When the church started visiting them, they began to understand about God’s love. We show them that God is love and that God loves people. Some came to faith and they now come to church.”
About 30 per cent of Pastor George’s church, now, are Christians who have converted from Islam. They are among the most vulnerable to persecution.
“When a Muslim becomes a believer, of course they are persecuted,” says Pastor George. “They face persecution from their family, because Islam forbids a Muslim to become a Christian. It even says that a person should be killed.”
Pastor George has seen astonishing courage from new believers in his church. These Christians from Muslim backgrounds are well aware of the dangers, but still choose Jesus. Pastor George continues: “They are not afraid to be killed. A lot of them openly declared their faith, though they knew they might lose their inheritance, their properties, they might be threatened.”
And it isn’t just threats. “Some were beaten because of their faith,” says Pastor George. “In one family, the parents threatened to kill the new believer. Because of that, the person had to flee. But they stayed firm in Jesus. Persecution leads to believers who abide more in God. They are ready to die for Jesus.”
Now they face the invisible threat of a pandemic – and the dangers of starvation, poverty and isolation that come with it.
“Covid-19 has a big impact on Qamishli; 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 need to provide for their family members and especially their children is bigger than ever. Due to the restrictions that prevent the virus spreading, the damage is huge for those families who were already needy in Qamishli.”
“Thank you for your help to make that possible,” says Pastor George to Open Doors supporters. But his message is simple: “Please continue to help us.”
Religious ministers have been exempted from travelling restrictions in Syria throughout the crisis, and so Pastor George is able to distribute aid to vulnerable members of his church – and to people outside it. “When we saw the increased need, we restarted relief distribution,” he says. “We gave people food and washing detergent coupons. Our church saw that now was a time to stand by the people, support them and show Jesus’ love in difficult times.”
“I wasn’t sure if the church would help me because I’m not Christian,” says May, a young woman displaced from Hama with her husband, toddler and baby. “But I had to ask, because my daughters are getting hungry and we are unable to support them.” The church in Qamishli gave her food and money for nappies – and showed her the love of Jesus in doing so.
The widespread need is clear. “People are hungry,” says Pastor George. “Some called me crying because they have no food for their kids and families. Especially displaced families who have no relatives here, so they can’t even ask to borrow money from anyone, just to keep them alive until this crisis ends. I see men, women and children crying of hunger. It’s tragic. We’re in dire need of funds to support a larger number of families.”
With your support, churches such as Pastor George’s can make hope visible in the Middle East. Relief projects will build resilient families and resilient communities, enabling believers to shine the light of Christ into the region and into the world. Pastor George and other Open Doors partners will still be in Syria long after this crisis is over, responding to the needs they see, welcoming new believers to the church family, and building a strong community of Syrians worshipping God and making Jesus’ love visible to their neighbours.
We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.