Syria (MNN) — We recently reported how an airstrike in Aleppo shut down a major airport and cut off a vast amount of earthquake aid to the northern region. Horizons International is getting around the issue by driving in aid with Lebanese and Syrian church partners.
Pierre Houssney, executive director with Horizons International explains, “Northern Syria is just a patchwork of different really kind of fiefdoms. There are certain areas that are controlled by government groups there and government-aligned groups, militias, and things. There are other areas that are controlled by different other armed groups that are against the [government] — the rebels, the Kurdish people, and there [are] all kinds of militias. It’s a huge patchwork.”
It’s a complex challenge for the ministry providing emergency relief. “We have to go through different checkpoints [and] avenues to get into the affected areas,” says Houssney.
“There are some areas where our Lebanese staff are not able to get into, so we have to send Kurdish-Syrian staff members into the Kurdish areas because they can pass through the checkpoints. We have different partnerships with churches that let us into different areas.”
Another threat to earthquake relief is the war of attrition between various groups in nothern Syria. Starvation is the violent method used to inflict harm as different factions keep aid from reaching certain people.
Houssney says, “In that kind of a landscape where people are just struggling to survive and all the factions are struggling against each other — armed struggle and economic struggle and intentional starvation of different people — how is aid going to get to the right places in that kind of a climate?”
This is where the Syrian Church is going against the grain and serving their neighbors, no matter their ethnicity or religion.
“One miracle that we can just thank God for is that there are still evangelical churches in this region. People don’t know that. People don’t seem to realize that,” Houssney says.
“Muslims are streaming into churches. They’re sleeping in churches in shifts, day and night, 24 hours a day on the pews of churches. Church people are helping them and feeding them and caring for them.
“One person said, ‘There’s no difference between Muslim and Christian anymore in that area. They don’t even care where the aid comes from or where the aid is going. Everybody is helping each other, and that has really opened doors for the Gospel.’”
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Houssney says Syrian believers need the prayers and vigilant support of the global Body of Christ.
“It’s my fear that the headlines are going to move on and then the churches are going to be left again. After having helped the people around them, they’re going to be left without support. So I want to make sure that people don’t forget the Church in the Middle East just because a few months passed since the earthquake.”
Houssney asks, “Be praying that the Lord would keep this open door for the Gospel open, that people’s hearts would still be open in northern Syria.”
Header photo courtesy of Horizons International.