11 March 2016

Signs of hope in Syria at 5 year anniversary of the civil war says Open Doors

There are signs of hope in Syria, with small businesses opening, new churches being planted and more people coming to Christ than ever before as the 5 year anniversary of the civil war occurs on 15 March 2016, according to persecution charity Open Doors.

The war in Syria has had a devastating effect on the population; 7.6 million people are internally displaced within the country and 4.6 million refugees have fled to nearby countries* such as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. Over 300,000 Syrians have fled to Europe.

An estimated 1.9 million Christians were in Syria at the start of the civil war, but Open Doors sources believe that between 600,000 and 900,000 Christians remain in the country. The number of Christians secretly worshipping is unknown. Syrian Christians not only face the same devastating effects of the war as other Syrians, but are also the targets of Islamic extremists.

Open Doors is supporting churches in Syria to care for over 10,000 families – approximately 50,000 people – every month with aid, including food, medicines, rent subsidies, and medical help.

Alongside emergency aid, the charity is also supporting other long-term projects in Syria. In February 2016 Open Doors partnered with a church in Homs to open a new furniture factory, which is providing work for over 30 people and already has international orders.

In another city, Open Doors was able to provide the finances to open a new pharmacy. It employs fewer people than the furniture factory, but enables people to buy medicines at reasonable prices, and provides discounts for those in need. “One of the needy women who received medicine for free burst into tears,” an Open Doors contact said.

It is the love of Christ shown through the church that is drawing many to faith in Jesus. One Syrian believer from a Muslim background from Aleppo has shared: “What attracted me is the loving environment of the church.”

However, these new believers can face serious consequences for choosing to leave Islam. In a Lebanese refugee camp one Syrian originally from a village close to Damascus said: “We [my wife and I] both became Christians. My wife took her veil off, but people started to threaten us.”

One pastor has told Open Doors: “The Muslims coming to faith are ready to die for their new beliefs; that is a different kind of Christianity. We’re in a big harvest. God is waking up a sleeping church.”

In 2015 Open Doors distributed 29,000 Bibles and 34,500 Children’s Bibles in Syria, many of which went to new believers to help them grow in their new faith. One church that Open Doors partners with, the Alliance Church in Damascus, even planted a new church close to Homs in February.

One church leader in Syria told Open Doors: “We continue to live in Syria with hope that our country will heal from its painful outcomes. It will heal from its wounds and will regain peace soon. We, under the Lord’s grace and through his strength, have decided to stay and carry on.”

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Note to editors: For more information contact Open Doors Press Office on 01993 777377.

*Figures on refugees taken from UNHCR 31 December 2015.

Syria is number 5 on the Open Doors World Watch List, which ranks the severity of persecution faced by Christians in 50 countries. Open Doors is partnering with local partners and churches in Syria to care for and provide relief aid to tens of thousands of displaced Christians, distribute Bibles and Christian books, provide discipleship and leadership training for church leaders and youth leaders, and provide trauma counselling and debriefing.

Open Doors UK & Ireland is part of Open Doors International, a global NGO network which has supported and strengthened persecuted Christians for 60 years. Last year it raised £59 million to provide practical support to persecuted Christians such as food, medicines, trauma care, legal assistance, safe houses and schools, as well as spiritual support through Christian literature, training and resources, in over 60 countries.