Syria (MNN) — Countries in the Middle East seems to be becoming more Islamic and more sectarian.
Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and its aftermath, Christian Iraqi communities that had survived for nearly 2,000 years were destroyed. That pattern isn’t lost on Syrian Christians as they see what is happening in their own country.
Last week, the United States recognized the Syrian National Coalition, a band of groups opposed to the Assad regime, as the government of Syria. Russia began dropping hints that the Assad regime could fall.
And which Syrian groups wait in the wings to fill the power vacuum? Todd Nettleton with Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) says, “Unfortunately, it seems the groups that will be in charge are sort of leaning toward radical Islam and a more Sharia-style government or legal system.”
If the opposition National Coalition ultimately takes power, then its strongest fighting force will be Jadhat al-Nusra, with stances similar to al-Qaeda. Prospects like these alarm Syrian Christians.
“The perception has been that the Assad regime has sort of protected Christians. I don’t know that it’s actually true to say they’ve protected them, but they haven’t been openly hostile to them,” explains Nettleton. “So there’s a perception that Christians are loyal to the Assad regime, and that is one of the sources of their fear now: that if a new group takes control, is there going to be some punishment for the perception that they have been supporting Assad?”
Christians may feel more frightened than other Syrians, but everybody feels vulnerable. Sanctions imposed by nations against Syria have hurt the citizens more than anything. In Damascus, there have been electricity cuts and shortages of diesel.
In the midst of the Syrian fear and tension, VOM is working to encourage Christians and church leaders. “We are in touch with them and reminding them they are not forgotten,” states Nettleton. “We are providing tools to help them survive in the sense of humanitarian, but also tools in the spiritual sense to encourage them to evangelize and use this opportunity.”
There is an incredible opportunity for Christ’s message of hope. Nettleton says, “Several months ago, I heard from one of our contacts in Syria who said you can plant a church in a day right now because there was so much openness to the Gospel.”
The Syrian church is seeing many of their members who have the financial means escape the country. Christians who are left behind are often those too poor to leave.
Please pray for the safety of Christians both leaving and staying in Syria. Pray for humanitarian aid to reach them and for encouragement of the church leaders in their community.
To take action for Christians in Syria, donate to VOM and encourage their work.