Serving Persecuted Christians Worldwide - Syria - Open Doors UK & Ireland

Syria

World Watch ranking: 15
Map thumbnail
Leader
President Bashar al-Assad

How many Christians?
638,000 (3.3%)

Main threats
  • Dictatorial paranoia
  • Islamic oppression

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How many Christians are there in Syria?

Syria has about 638,000 Christians, about 3.3% of a population of 19.6 million. The number of Christians in the country has decreased in the past decade, as many have fled conflict and persecution.

How are Christians persecuted in Syria?

Christians in Syria still grapple with daily persecution that may become violent, despite the public threat from so-called Islamic State having largely subsided. In areas where Islamic extremist groups are active, any public expression of faith is dangerous. Sharing the gospel is very risky, and church buildings have often been completely destroyed. The abduction of church leaders continues to have a considerably negative impact on Christian communities.

As the Christian population of Syria has diminished due to the civil war, more and more Syrian Christians come from a Muslim background. This makes them additional targets – including from their own family, who may attack or reject converts. A Christian woman who converts while married to a Muslim is likely to face divorce and losing custody of her children, since Sharia (Islamic law) dictates that rights are given to the Muslim parent.

Additionally, every Christian in Syria lives with the constant realisation that Islamic extremists have not necessarily left Syria – they've just retreated into the shadows, and they may return to public life again in the future. 

Meet Pastor Edward

“It's very important for us, as Middle Eastern people, to see the church stay.”Pastor Edward, who runs a Centre of Hope in Syria

What’s life like for Christians in Syria?

“The church was bleeding,” says Pastor Edward, looking back at the decade of persecution, war and pandemic that continues to have a severe impact. “We lost over 60 per cent of our members; they left Syria. It was so hard. Many of them had positions of leadership in the church.”

All Syrians and Iraqis have experienced hardship in the past decade, but Christians have faced more than most. In many regions, they were targeted by Islamic militants – losing their jobs, their homes and even their lives. Many had to flee, displaced either within Syria or abroad. Those who stayed either had no choice, or decided – like Pastor Edward – to courageously remain with the church.

At the beginning of the Hope for the Middle East campaign, Pastor Edward said: “It’s very important and meaningful for us, as Middle Eastern people, to see the church stay – to do the work of Christ here, like a light in the darkness.” That’s exactly what he has done ever since. At Pastor Edward’s Centre of Hope in Damascus, a lot of community connection was fostered by distributing emergency food and medicine. “The church has distributed relief items to the neediest. We brought love and care to the people in need, in the name of Christ. We are the ambassadors of Christ in the country."

Is it getting easier to be a Christian in Syria?

Syria has dropped three places on the Open Doors World Watch List, and this is largely due to a decrease in violence. Praise God, there were no reports of Christians being killed for their faith in the past year (compared to nine in the year before). But pressure remains extreme on Christians, and there was an increase in the number of church attacks and Christians arrested for their faith – so our Syrian family still need our prayers.

How can I help Christians in Syria?

Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in Syria. Your gifts and prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost.

Open Doors partners strengthen the church in Syria through Bible distribution, discipleship and leadership training, trauma counselling and Centres of Hope, which support Syrian Christians and their communities.

please pray

Almighty God, we ask You to look with compassion on Your people in Syria. They have endured so much in the past 10 years, and they continue to live in danger and pain. Please comfort them. Deliver them from their sorrows. Bring to mind the joy and peace of Your Son, Jesus, that they may bear the weight of persecution well. Strengthen their hearts, Lord. Amen. 

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