Levant Christians Sustained by Faith
By Martin Hopman
06/22/2021 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – “The worst part of kidnapping is that you don’t know if they are alive or dead, you live every day waiting to hear any news about them.”
For an aging widow named Dalal who has two daughters and four grandchildren, it is not enough that Dalal was driven from her home by a terrorist off-shoot of al-Qaeda. Her only son, in addition to one of her sons-in-law, were both taken by the terrorist group. She has not heard from either of them since 2012. There is no one protecting or providing for these women and their children, they continue what life they can in the absence of their sons and husbands. Meanwhile, they live with the constant fear of being targeted.
Dalal and her family are not the only Christians who have fallen victim to extremist groups since the outbreak conflict in the Levant following the Arab Spring. What began as counter-government protests quickly devolved into a catalyst for wide-spread sectarian violence against Christian minorities.
In her country, numerous anti-government Sunni militias formed. Al-Qaeda and ISIS merged and then dissolved into other terrorist groups who sought to overthrow the government in exchange for an Islamist nation. The displacement and persecution of Christians was a result of that vision. As a result, there are very few safe havens left for believers. They face discrimination, extortion, and violence. Even the most basic of food stuffs and medicine is difficult to find, much less a secure place to call home.
Abou and his wife faced similar troubles: all their children have married and moved away, leaving the aging couple to fend for themselves in their war-torn city. Driven from their home by terrorists, they were unable to take anything of great value with them, their furniture having been burned by the extremists.
The elderly couple fled to a nearby village where the local church supplied them with a home, but they were soon driven out again by terrorists. Abou’s wife was critically injured by a bullet in her back, which doctors dared not remove for fear of paralyzing her. As of now, they live out of Abou’s little shop, barely scraping by. Added to the rest of their troubles, Abou was recently diagnosed with cancer.
Even in fleeing terrorists, Christians dared not show their faces in the rubble strewn streets. Some like Maria’s family instead chose to risk the meter long jumps from building top to building top to avoid the militants prowling below. But not all can take such risks and Maria’s mother, with her husband away serving in the military, and having an infant child to consider, instead chose to barricade herself alone in her home. Supplied by faithful friends who would toss her food from a nearby building, she and her baby Maria survived.
There were no such friends for old Kourjiye however. “I have no one but God in my life!” Divorced and abandoned by her husband, and everyone else close to her, the destitute 90-year-old was driven from her home by terrorists and was homeless for a time. The church eventually found a place for her. Despite the loss of her sons and trials she has faced continues to hope. “People around me, they call me Job, as I have patience even though I am passing through all these difficulties and still I have faith in God!”
Coming alongside these families and many others by partnering with the local church, ICC was able to help provide much needed food and medical supplies, including in some instances critical surgeries such as Abou’s cancer treatment and Maria’s hernia repair. While their country’s future remains uncertain, the faith of its persecuted Christian community continues to grow despite the forces arrayed against it. These critical food and medical supplies have helped sustain them by answering their most vulnerable physical needs.