Syria remains at the top of ICC’s prayer list, as entire cities, including Homs and Qusayr, have been emptied of Christians (read: Syria’s Threatened Christians). The plight of Christians is less a result of the bombardment of Syrian cities by the army than the rising threat of Islamic radicalism. Recent reports indicate that Syrian Sunni jihadists who were fighting with al Qaeda against U.S. forces in Iraq are returning to fight the regime at home. In a recently released video, masked men that claim to belong to the Free Syrian Army—a revolutionary opposition movement that the U.S. is backing to take down the regime—hold AK-47s in front of two Al Qaeda flags. “We are now forming suicide cells to make jihad in the name of Allah,” said a speaker in the video.
“The video… is one more bit of evidence that Al Qaeda and other Islamic extremists are doing their best to hijack the Syrian revolution,” The New York Times reports. “Al Qaeda has helped to change the nature of the conflict, injecting the weapon it perfected in Iraq — suicide bombings — into the battle against President Bashar al-Assad.”
Among those most concerned are Syria’s Christians who historically have been granted a higher degree of freedom in Syria than in many other Middle Eastern countries. If the regime were to collapse, it is unclear who, in the words of Professor Vali Nasr, “will prevent a massacre of the Alawites and the Christians and those Sunnis who supported Assad.
“This is no longer really about democracy,” the professor continued. “And liberal democracy does not emerge in these kinds of circumstances of violence and fratricide.”
“We saw what happened to the Christians in Iraq,” Abu George, a Christian resident of Aleppo, Syria’s second largest city, told Global Post. “What is going on in Aleppo is not a popular revolution for democracy and freedom. The fighters of the so-called Free Syrian Army are radical Sunnis who want to establish an Islamic state.”
ICC is receiving weekly reports of severe hardship and persecution from Christians in Syria. These Christians daily face the threat of being killed, but they refuse to leave their homeland or to desert their countrymen at such a critical and trying time. Instead, they see themselves as the bearers of Syria’s future hope. “Without us, who will hear about Jesus, the source of all hope, in these difficult days?” they tell ICC. These Christians remain on the front-lines to be a light in the darkness and to proclaim the Good News to the helpless and hurting.
In an effort to mobilize prayer for the Syrian church, we want to share an update, received on August 7, from a Christian in Damascus. Like the prayer update we posted on June 24, we hope that this Christian’s words will help direct your prayers for the persecuted church in Syria.
Prayer update from a Christian in Damascus (some information had to be removed for the church’s security):
Sometimes I desire for life to return back to normal around us. This is something we all wish for when going through hardship and especially war. It has not been easy at all! Being caught up under vicious fire, especially under the extremist groups, is truly unpleasant. Hearing shouts early morning with our own ears calling the name of God before firing on people who have decided not to protest is a reality what we’re facing when it comes to our existence and life. As I was speaking with one of the people who believe they are doing “good for God”, the idea of killing in the name of God seems imbedded into the mindset of a culture that was pure from such beliefs before. May God give us wisdom to tear down such a mindset of killing! Though it’s so impossible to bring them out of their mindset, what’s impossible for man IS possible for God.
I was with my father listening to a person with this mindset, “we kill for God”. It brought out my father’s love to share the truth of God, which made this man speechless and shaking, knowing that the words of the gospel defeated his mindset and his thoughts of destruction. He was speechless for 2 hours after giving his 10 minute speech on death and killing. Truly, if you bring all weapons vs. our words that come from a believing heart, it is powerful enough to shake the essence of any mindset. May God give us wisdom, to bring ourselves from any ungodly mindset so we can help others to come out of their own!
Sadly there is no solution for now but we will continue to pray and seek His glory only… The message of Christ [is] the only solution in our world.
- Please pray for strength for the Christians in Syria. It’s truly challenging, as you all know.
- Pray for those who have been persecuted for being Christians
- Pray for peace, that God will use the church to be a voice of peace for both sides of the conflict
- Pray for the church leaders, especially those who stayed here, though they had and still have the opportunity to leave.