Syria (CAM) — The Islamic State’s use of brutality as a way to force Christians to renounce their faith is only escalating. But besides physical danger, there is another issue threatening the work of faithful Christians in Syria: trauma.
*Aafa, a missionary supported by Christian Aid Mission, recently learned of the torture and murder of 11 indigenous missionaries he had trained and baptized, as well as a 12-year-old boy. He encouraged the missionaries to flee, but they chose to stay.
“You feel like you’re a parent over them. You’re a spiritual father over them,” says Steve Van Valkenburg, the Middle East director for Christian Aid Mission. “Then to see them crucified, it’s not easy. And communicating with the mission leader, it’s been some time since it happened, and he’s getting better; he’s still processing it.
“I think that what he’s going to do is probably be more forceful in encouraging these workers to leave when they know the area is falling to some kind of hostile group. He’s going to put more pressure in saying, ‘You really need to leave.’ But these people felt called to stay. He asked them to leave, and they said, ‘We need to stay here.’”
While some willingly risk their life for the Gospel, for others, the choice whether or not to stay is more challenging. Morning Star News, a news service focusing on the persecution of Christians, recently published an article talking about a pastor who has moved around multiple times to escape violence in Syria. He chose to remain in the country and is staying in a relatively safe location, but the trauma his family is facing could leave lasting scars.
“His home has been taken over by a rebel group, and they’ve got his phone number, and they phone him over and over, and they keep threatening him,” Van Valkenburg says. “[His] six-year-old little girl, she hears what’s happening, and so every night she has nightmares.
“It’s hard to know what’s going to happen to her in the long run, but that’s part of the price that the workers in Syria are paying, because they have to figure out how to have a ministry, how to protect their family, and what do you do when your family is not handling things well?”
When families do decide to flee for their safety, that’s where Christian Aid Mission comes in. It is working to raise money for its missionary evacuation fund, helping missionaries and their families find solace when they feel called to leave.
“Even though one person may feel called, it doesn’t mean his wife and children feel called to stay there,” Van Valkenburg says. “One thing we want to do is to be able to have resources and be able to get them out of areas where we know it’s going to fall within a very short time, and they can no longer have ministries.
“People need to pray for these vulnerable people who are having these kinds of ministries.”
Want to make a difference yourself? Follow this link, then scroll to the bottom of the page to see how you too can help rescue Syrian missionaries desiring safety.
*Name changed for security reasons.