Today it was a taste of Hell … Fires everywhere. Explosions. Mothers missing their children. Families shattered. No one is asking for food or support, but [instead] where they can hide themselves and their children.” These are the words of a senior doctor and Christian leader to Barnabas Fund following one rebel bombardment of the Christian areas in Aleppo last year. The city has been divided since 2012, when Islamist groups took control of large areas from the government, leaving the Christians under siege. For much of last year, the Christian community continued to be targeted by rockets and mortars, their plight largely ignored by Western media, who focused on the Syrian government’s war against the rebels.
What began as a peaceful protest against President Assad’s government in 2011 has escalated into a six-year regional conflict. Prior to the war, Christians, who comprised around 10% of Syria’s population, were given equality and treated with respect. However, the rise of Islamist militant groups, and especially the emergence of Islamic State (IS) in 2014, led to a violent wave of anti-Christian persecution. Believers have been kidnapped and murdered, especially church ministers. Half the population is displaced and nearly five million people have fled the country, including at least half a million Christians, but most Western governments continue to discriminate against Syrian Christian refugees, despite the European Parliament passing a resolution in 2016 which recognised the systematic killing of Christians and other minorities by IS as genocide.
Rising prices have meant that even where food and medicines are available, for the poor and the elderly, decent regular meals and routine medical care are simply unaffordable. For the many Christian widows and orphans, their prospects are bleak even if there is a swift end to the fighting.
Cry out to God on behalf of the people of Syria, suffering in the midst of conflict. Pray especially for Syrian Christians, facing not only war but also violent anti-Christian persecution from IS and other Islamists. Pray that they will dwell in the shelter of the Most High. Pray for the safe release of those who have been kidnapped by Islamic militants and for the international community to come to the aid of those who have been forced to flee their homes.