Covid-19 continues to have a worldwide impact. How is it affecting the church in the Middle East?
The impact of Covid-19 and lockdown has particularly affected the church in Syria and Iraq. After a decade of conflict and persecution, as well as ongoing poverty, Christians in the Middle East are now disproportionately vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic. Though the official figures suggest that Syria has seen a relatively small number of cases and fatalities, this number is likely to be much higher than has been reported.
But your response to Open Doors’ Covid-19 appeal for Syria is making an enormous difference. The church has been able to step in where officials couldn’t, or wouldn’t.
Open Doors had planned to gradually move away from giving relief support. Mourad*, a local partner who coordinates Open Doors’ work in Syria, says, “We wanted to invest in sustainable livelihood. We wanted to give opportunities to generate income so people would not think of leaving Syria. Moreover, we wanted to focus more on spiritual support, on investing in leadership.
“Unfortunately, Covid-19 added a new serious challenge as the economy in poor countries like Syria was hit hard. As a result, we had to decide to continue to give food to the neediest.”
Open Doors local partners, having been in the region for many years, were well-equipped to support persecuted believers in the way that is most needed for their context.
“The church provided me with oxygen bottles,” says Nancy from Latakia, Syria. Her father died from Covid, and she was hospitalised. “They [Open Doors partners] provided me with oxygen bottles. I had to be on oxygen for five days. I would have died without it. They prayed for me and paid my medical bills.”
"I had faith in Jesus and relied on Him" Antoinette
The mother of Judy George in Latakia got infected as well during the second wave of Covid in Latakia. “We were very scared,” Judy says. “At the same time many people around us were dying due to the virus.” Thank the Lord she was treated with medicine and she recovered after two weeks. Her church also prayed for the mother and her family, and helped with the expenses of medicine.
Marina from Aleppo, meanwhile, lost her father to the virus, as well as getting ill with it herself. “He was 79 years old. His body couldn't handle it and he died. Our biggest challenge was fear.” Marina adds that her church prayed and helped with medicine and hospital expenses.
After 17 days being very ill, the father of Shant Barbarian, from Qamishli, had lost a lot of weight. “It was a nightmare for our family. He was so energetic and active; he is responsible for the house andalso works with the Alliance Church. We took care of him at home until, by the grace of God and the prayer of our brethren in the church, he got better. The church constantly called and checked his condition and prayed for him. They helped us with medicines, which were very hard to find.”
Antoinette, from Qamishli, was ill for over six weeks: “I had faith in Jesus and relied on Him. He saved me like He saved the lame man, in the Bible story; this story encouraged me during that time. The church supported us with their prayers and encouragement. They helped financially.”
These are just some of the many Christians affected by Covid – even those who stayed healthy suffered in other ways. Poverty, isolation and discrimination mean that the impact of the pandemic hits Christians disproportionately. Your support and prayers mean that thousands of believers have received emergency relief, financial help and crucial hope for the future.
You can support the persecuted church in the Middle East with your gift.
Your support helps persecuted Christians continue to courageously follow Jesus.
Together, we can reach those where persecution hits hardest.