Syria protests continue. (Photos by Zeinab Mohamed)
Syria (MNN) ― Sectarian violence is on the rise throughout Syria, a troubling addition to the tension-filled uprising.
The European Union is considering new sanctions to try to quell the brutality. However, over the weekend, the government massed troops for an apparent assault on a Sunni town near the Iraqi border.
The looming confrontation follows a bloody Friday in which Syrian security forces opened fire on large protests around the country. E3 Partners spokesman Tom Doyle says the latest threat of violence has disillusioned many Syrians. "They're seeing Muslims killing Muslims, and some of the Muslims are reaching out to believers saying, ‘We don't see this anger and hatred with you. We need your prayers. Can you talk to us?‘ And in some cases, Muslims have prayed to receive Christ."
Passions are high, and that can mean trouble for believers caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. "We do know of some Christians that have escaped from situations where there were riots against the government, and all of a sudden, the Christians were targeted." With a sectarian split between the government's Alawites and Sunnis and ethnic Kurdish protesters as one possible outcome, Gospel work has seen a slowdown. "[Christians] just are kind of staying low, at this point, to stay out of the fray. Even though this is against the government, it could easily turn on them at a moment's notice like it has in some other cities."
Many of E3's partners in the region have nowhere to go to escape from the upheaval. Doyle explains that "it's virtually all over Syria. We're hearing from national leaders [that] it's everywhere. They're in it. They're trying to be smart and careful, but yet they can't really go anywhere to escape from it. And so they are just praying that God uses them in the midst of the uncertainty and the violence."
There's also concern for the future of the Christian Community should President Bashar al-Assad's government fall from power. Dolye says, "There's no way to predict if this dictator was removed, who would be the next one...would he be any better, would he be any worse?" Already, believers have noted the involvement of Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood.
Given this scenario, Syria's 1.4 million Christians could be facing the same position as Iraq's annihilated Christian community. Doyle asks us to "pray for the believers in Syria in above-ground churches and house churches and parachurch ministries that are there trying to bring Jesus in to this very dangerous and chaotic place."
Because Syria has been stable and calm for 30 years, the last four months have turned everything upside-down for believers. Doyle urges other Christians to "[pray] that they would remain bold during this time, filled with Christ's love and sharing wherever they go. In times of uncertainty, there's a high receptivity rate to the Gospel."