Syria (MNN) — For the past 20 months, Russia has stood as a staunch defender and ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Along with China, the former Soviet nation blocked any measures against Assad from the U.N. Security Council. In addition, Russia came to Assad's side with military assistance to combat multiple opposition forces.
Now, for the first time, Russia publicly admits that Assad might face defeat.
"Unfortunately, we cannot rule out the victory of the Syrian opposition," Russian deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov said yesterday. Assad's forces are "losing more and more control and territory."
It's a significant statement at a critical time.
"If Russia's position on Syria had been a brick wall, it is now a brick wall with a crack in it," a British Foreign Office spokesperson told Reuters. Bogdanov says Russia is drawing up plans to evacuate its people from the war-torn nation.
Government forces fired missiles within Syria for the first time on Wednesday–a move indicating an increased desperation, the U.S. government says. A deadly triple bombing in Damascus, Syria's capital city, accompanied the missile attack.
This bout of assaults came as the United States, along with representatives of over 100 countries, met in Morocco to endorse a newly-formed rebel union as the legitimate representative of Syria's people: the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces.
So what does all of this mean for the Gospel?
"There's a tremendous openness right now," says Jeff Palmer with Baptist Global Response. "Anytime you have something that removes the rug out from underneath the feet of your belief system, there's always an opportunity for the compassion of the Gospel and the Truth of the Gospel to make [a] difference in lives."
At least 40,000 people have been killed since Syria joined surrounding Middle Eastern nations in the "Arab Spring," a series of uprisings that began in March 2011 and quickly spread across the Arab world.
"There's just a lot of human suffering going on right now, and whichever side wins, [there's] still a whole lot of rebuilding, helping people get back to their lives," Palmer says.
"It's a hard situation; it's sad…there's more internally displaced people than there are refugees outside."
According to the UN Refugee Agency, over 500,000 Syrian refugees have been registered or are awaiting registration in Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey, and North Africa. Since the beginning of November, the number of registered refugees has risen by about 3,100 a day.
"But as many as are in the camps and getting official help," Palmer states, "there's that many more that are unofficially there; they've just fled; they've just walked across the border."
The UNHCR says Jordan estimates that it has some 100,000 people who aren't registered. Turkey reports over 70,000 refugees living outside camps, while Egypt estimates a similar number. Lebanon also says it has tens of thousands of refugees who haven't registered.
Palmer says, "We're doing a lot in responding to those who are falling between the cracks. We're helping with basics like food and water, and right now, especially, [we're] helping them with warm clothes and heating."
If opposition forces manage to overthrow Assad's regime, the book won't close on Syria's struggles: it'll just be the start of another chapter.
"The rebuilding and getting people back to their normal lives is going to be a long process," says Palmer. "When you're looking at basic infrastructure for cities, 60-70% destroyed…getting food, getting water, getting electricity is just a constant struggle.
"We're trying our best to help where we can, and whether things escalate or de-escalate, there are just tremendous needs right now."
You can help Christian workers prepare bags of food and deliver them to Syrian families living in border towns by clicking here. While there, believers listen to families' stories of loss and suffering — and express the love of Christ.
"Continue to pray for peace; pray for our folks that are responding there. Pray for those who are hopeless now, not knowing what to do," Palmer requests. "A few months ago: just a normal life. And now: everything is torn apart because of this conflict.
"Just pray that they would receive comfort."