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Syrian Christians in desperate straits: ...

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Syrian Christians in desperate straits: will the churches survive?

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Syrian Christians in desperate straits: will the churches survive?

Project(s): 00-1032

Country/Region: Middle East and North Africa, Syria

The city of Homs, the third largest in Syria, has now seen almost its entire Christian population of 50,000 to 60,000 flee for safety as fighting continues in the stricken country.

Bombed out Syrian church
This church was damaged during the fighting in Homs
CC BY 2.0 / FreedomHouse

The number of Christians left in the city has reportedly fallen to below 1,000 after the strife between the troops of President Bashar Assad and anti-government forces reached its peak there last month. Christians have fled to surrounding villages, other major Syrian cities, and even Lebanon. Those who remain have spoken of a growing "atmosphere of fear".

During the worst of the conflict, the opposition forces attacked churches and also occupied an evangelical school and home for the elderly, which were then shelled by the army. Church leaders have reported that Muslim neighbours are turning on the Christians, and that Muslim extremists from other countries have been coming to Homs to join the fighting.

Christians have also suffered kidnappings and gruesome murders. Some Christian families, unable to pay a ransom for their relatives' release and fearing that they may be tortured, have been driven to ask the kidnappers to kill their loved ones at once.

The number of doctors in Homs has dwindled from 850 to 35-50, and the number of functioning hospitals from 40-45 to just five or six. Some hospitals have been attacked and destroyed; others have closed because they have no drugs or other resources; and two more have been robbed to equip field hospitals. Five schools have also been damaged.

The displaced Christians face an uncertain future and are concerned that they may be unable to return home, while the plight of those who remain is truly desperate. Prices have rocketed, supplies have run low, and it has often been too dangerous to go out.

Danger Beyond Homs

Christians are seriously endangered in other parts of Syria too. Not only are they generally assumed to be pro-Assad, but also a strongly Islamist element amongst the rebels will attack them simply because they are Christians.

Bombs have already exploded in the Christian quarters of Damascus and Aleppo. Church leaders hesitate to travel at night, believing that, as symbols of the Christian presence, they may be special targets for assassination. The authorities have warned the churches not to gather in large numbers over the Easter period in case their meetings are bombed.

One church leader told Barnabas Aid:

We hope for a safe future but nobody knows what will happen. There are many outside influences. We fear sectarian conflict. We fear becoming like Iraq. If the Christians leave the Arab countries it will be a loss for everybody.

Another added:

God willing, Syria will come out of it, but at what cost? I am not very optimistic that our Christian community will survive.

Barnabas Aid is working directly with Christian partners in the country to get emergency aid to needy Christians throughout Syria, including those from Homs and the victims of the bombings.

Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Aid, said:

I have just returned from meeting Syrian church leaders, and I am more than ever convinced that our Christian brothers and sisters in Syria need our help. The dark days of the Middle Ages when many churches were burned and Christians slaughtered in the region are threatening to return, endangering the very existence of the churches in this land that has had a Christian presence for almost 2,000 years. Please help us to support the Christians of Syria in their desperate need.

Give Today

If you would like to help Christians affected by the crisis in Syria, please send your donation to the Middle East Fund (project 00-1032).  using our secure server.

If you prefer to telephone, dial: 0800 587 4006 from within the UK or +44 1672 565031 from outside the UK. Please quote project reference Middle East Fund (project 00-1032).

If you prefer to send a cheque by post: Click this link for the address of our regional office. Please quote project reference Middle East Fund (project 00-1032).

For a quick donation of £3.00 by SMS (see terms and conditions here) text Barnabas/1032 to 70007 (Please note: This facility is presently only available to UK supporters).

Please Pray:
  • For protection for all the people of Homs and in other parts of Syria who are caught up in the conflict, and that humanitarian aid will reach them.
  • For the Christians displaced from their homes or in danger of attack, that the Lord will protect them and meet their needs.
  • For an end to the fighting and a just resolution of the crisis in Syria.
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Syrian Christians in desperate straits: will the churches survive?

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christian, persecution, charity, church, persecuted, sookhdeo, Islam

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  • Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we give You thanks on this Easter Day for the living hope that You have given us and all Your people through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead (1 Peter 1:3). We pray that the prospect of an enduring inheritance and future salvation will encourage our persecuted brothers and sisters to persevere in their faith, whatever may happen to them. We pray that we too may be sustained by this hope in the sufferings that we experience for the sake of Christ. We ask that the joy and resurrection power of the Lord will give strength and peace to persecuted believers today and every day. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 7 hours ago

  • Give thanks for the Christ-like responses of Christian leaders in CAR to the crisis that threatens them and their churches. They have distanced themselves from the anti-balaka militias, saying that these should not be labelled as Christian and that they hold no mandate from the churches. The leaders have also condemned the violence in the country, whatever its origin, and have called on Christians to pursue forgiveness, reconciliation and healing. Churches are hiding, defending and caring for thousands of Muslims endangered by the anti-balaka, and one of CAR’s most senior church leaders has invited the president of the country’s Islamic community to move into his church compound. Pray that this powerful witness to the grace and love of Christ will help to bring peace to the shattered country. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sat, Apr 2014 00:00

  • On this Good Friday, give thanks to God for the death of Christ and for His gift of eternal life. Praise Him too for the example of those Christians who have persevered in their faith at the risk of their lives and who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of Christ and the Gospel. Pray that their martyrdom will inspire their suffering brothers and sisters in Christ to endure whatever hardships befall them and will convince their persecutors of the truth and power of the Gospel. Pray too that their bereaved families and churches will not grieve without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Fri, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Cry out to the Lord for Christians in the Central African Republic (CAR) who have been driven from their homes by the violence that has engulfed their country. Attacks by Islamist Séléka militants and retaliation from “anti-balaka” militias has generated a huge humanitarian crisis in which around two million people, many of them Christians, are in need of emergency assistance. Give thanks for the work of Barnabas partners who have been providing food rations to hundreds of displaced believers in the capital, Bangui, and distributing food, medicines, clothing and seeds to thousands in various regions. Pray that the aid will reach those who need it most, and that the Lord will comfort the relatives and friends of the thousands who have been killed in the fighting. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Thu, Apr 2014 00:00

  • “Jesus Christ performed tremendous miracles in all our lives through this Shalom Camp.” A pastor spoke of how God had worked through a Barnabas-sponsored weekend Bible camp for persecuted Christians in Sri Lanka. The camp was attended by believers from five different churches that had been the target of threats or attacks by Buddhist or Hindu extremists. The participants heard teaching on the Biblical basis for persecution and took part in group discussions; they came away refreshed and encouraged, and for many the camp was a time of great spiritual renewal. Give thanks to the Lord for the peace He has brought to these persecuted believers, and ask that the weekend will continue to bear much fruit in their lives. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Wed, Apr 2014 00:00

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