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ICC Note: The Syrian Civil War has led to drastic and ever shifting population demographics, with most Christians having left early on in the war and not likely to return. This has negatively impacted churches in the country, who are left with few leaders and a congregation that is always in transit to somewhere safer. With the Syrian War now in its eighth year and showing no sign of abating, the future of the church is something that many Christian leaders are struggling with.          

05/17/2018 Syria (World Watch Monitor) –   As the war in Syria enters its eighth year, clergy who have watched their congregations dwindle fear that those who have left the country may not return. One priest expressed his fear that “Christianity will be erased” from certain areas of the country “because the Christians who left these places won’t come back, even if the army liberates those areas”.

The priest, who did not wish to be named, said every war in the region leads to a decrease in the number of Christians. “The emigration of Christians makes the Church weaker and weaker,” he told the Christian charity Open Doors International.

Clergy in Syria are trying to persuade Christians who have not yet emigrated to stay. (Open Doors International)

“Among those who left were several servants of the Church.” Fr. Yuhanna Alzakimi (Open Doors International)

Syria had a pre-war population of 22 million, but over 400,000 have been killed (that is the latest figure to have been published by the UN in 2016, after which it stopped counting because numbers could not be verified). In addition, 5.6 million have left as refugees and more than 6 million are internally displaced. There are no reliable figures available for how many Christians have left the country.

Many of the young Christian men who used to volunteer at churches in various roles have emigrated, creating a gap that is hard to fill, Fr. Yuhanna Alzakimi, a Syriac Orthodox priest from Homs, told Open Doors: “Among those who left were several servants of the Church; some of them left in a short period of time. For the Church, it wasn’t easy to train their replacements.”

Some clergy are trying to persuade Christians who have not yet emigrated to stay. “The challenge is how to keep the rest of them in the country,” said another priest, Fr. Yuhanna Shehada from Damascus.

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For interviews with Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: press@persecution.org