“What a unique time it is to live in this moment in history,” a Syrian Christian living in Damascus wrote to ICC. “The biggest challenge for the church is to get involved at such a time and to take part in the story that many generations from now will be speaking about.”
Syria’s civil war has now claimed more than 33,000 lives, activists say. In August alone, nearly 5,000 people were killed in the conflict’s deadliest month to date. The victims have included those from every political movement and religious affiliation in the country, including Sunnis—the majority of whom support the Free Syrian Army—and Alawites who generally back President Bashar al-Assad.
Syria’s Christians have also suffered and many find it hard to choose sides. While they desire political reform and greater freedoms—like many of their Sunni countrymen—they remember the outcome of war in Iraq and revolution in Egypt and fear the growing threat of extremism if Assad if overthrown.
“I am concerned if the regime is toppled, Syria will fall in to the hands of extremists. Nobody will protect the rights of the Christians. Look at what happened to the Christians in Egypt and Iraq. Christians keep losing,” said Kalach, a Syrian Christian businessman, echoing the fears of many Christians.
No doubt, persecution will increase if the regime is toppled. Rebels from al-Qaeda and other Islamic terrorist networks have infiltrated into the Free Syrian Army to “make jihad in the name of Allah” and “restore” Syria as an “Islamic caliphate”. Yet, despite uncertainly over Syria’s future, Christians have found greater purpose, knowing that they must not stand idly by while their countrymen are slaughtered. Christians are laying down their lives to share the love of Christ and to aid anyone—whether supporters of the opposition or of the regime—who is in need.
“The reason we are here is stronger than the [bullets] we hear or the curfews in place for our safety,” said the Christian in Damascus. “We are truly seeing His mighty hands in the life of our Church and people. We are seeing doors to share the truth with many of the Syrian people. I can’t fathom all the doors God is opening up for the Church to speak the truth into people’s lives.”
Christians are among the earliest groups woven into Syria’s multi-religious fabric. While the threat of radical Islam is of grave concern, Christians have put their trust in Christ alone and know that the church will continue to endure and even prosper as it has for nearly 2,000 years.
“We, the church, will continue to look forward to the future of the church and hold onto the unique challenges we face,” the Christian in Damascus continued. “Many are talking about wiping out Christianity in this land… But the fact that the followers of Jesus in Acts 11 were first called Christians in Antioch, Syria was no coincidence. God never stopped watching over Christians in Syria. Close to 2,000 years Christianity existed in Syria and it will never seize to exist. On the contrary, the church is growing and will continue to grow!”
Please pray for the church in Syria who, despite facing escalating persecution, have chosen to stay in their homeland to offer hope—found in Christ alone—and minister to those in need.