(ODM/MNN) — At the beginning of 2011, the blossoming "Arab Spring"
promised hope of new beginnings throughout the Middle East and North Africa.
2011 draws to a close, it's beginning to look more like a chilly "Arab Winter"
Christians have borne the brunt of regime changes in both
Egypt and Syria. Unrest remains part of
the landscape. While the people can
agree they want to be free from oppressive regimes, no one can seem to agree on
who will be in charge. Open Doors
minister-at-large Paul Estabrooks notes,
"Syria has a lot of parallelisms with Iraq."
Christians, in general, are afraid of what might happen to
them in the future, especially if fanatic Muslims take over or obtain more
freedom and seek revenge against believers. Estabrooks says, "One of the groups
advocating for the fall of the Assad regime is a group of extremist Muslims who
want to rule the country. If that became the situation, our brothers and
sisters would be in dire need."
Some Christians have already reported violent acts against
them as a sign of more threats and violence to come. There, too, Estabrooks confirms the reports.
"Some of our reporters tell us that taxi drivers in some of the cities
have made a vow to harm all women who take their taxi, [women] who are not totally
veiled the way they think they should be."
inside Syria are caught in the crossfire as they are in many other Middle
Eastern countries," says Open Doors President/CEO Dr. Carl Moeller. "Until the
protests started against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, the Christian
community enjoyed some protection. Now they are afraid of the future. Will they
have to flee their country like Iraqi Christians have done over the last
several years? Please lift them up in your prayers."
of months of protests and violence against the government of al-Assad, Syria is
on the brink of civil war. Thousands of protesters have been killed. Because of
the continued crackdown on the protests, there is an international boycott in
place. Inside Syria the central government is losing its grip on the situation.
Estabrooks, "The word we're getting is that the situation is getting worse,
especially for our brothers and sisters. There's a lot of criminal
activity, where the military have
withdrawn, and there's a lot of activity by fundamentalist Muslim
field worker writes, "In the city of
Homs, for example, the Sunni Muslims gained power on the streets when the
government pulled out its troops for a few days. Some of the radical elements
in this group have raided several churches. They robbed the churches of their
most valuable things."
The hostile atmosphere in Syria is creating another dark
parallel to Iraq. "There is a real worry in the minds and hearts of our
brothers and sisters there, to the point where they, like the Iraqi
Christians, are seriously considering emigrating, leaving the country."
Syria has more than 20 million inhabitants.
About 1.5 million Syrians are Christians. It's a nightmare twice over for some because, Estabrooks says, many of the Christians in
Syria sought refuge from the persecution in Iraq.
As the situation deteriorates, Estabrooks urges believers: "Pray
for the situation because we believe God is in control. He, fortunately, is the one who sees the end. He
knows what's going to happen. We need to intercede on behalf of our brothers
of the chaos, the United Nations has voted in sanctions. According to an Open Doors worker, the
impact throughout the country has been severe.
reports, "Petrol is running out, or being preserved, or thrown out by opposing
groups to create more of an issue within the country. You also see in the
supermarkets that products are missing. Prices are rising because of the
shortages. People stand in lines for hours just to get a tank of gasoline for
heat; sometimes they go away empty. With electricity getting cut for few hours
a day, no gasoline and no petrol are available as before."
And yet, the Gospel is still going forward. There are some
who are dedicated to sharing the hope of Christ in Syria. To those, Estabrooks says, "We provide Bibles,
literature and training–especially leadership training."