(ODM/MNN) — Syria was wracked with protests beginning Friday–another
manifestation of the upheaval since the anti-government movement began 14 months
Jerry Dykstra, spokesman with Open Doors USA, says despite an April ceasefire, "Things are breaking apart. We've seen
that with the twin car blasts in Damascus that killed 55 outside of the Syrian
Intelligence Compound on Thursday, and other bombings also."
While the United Nations doesn't want to go so far as to say
the agreement is a complete failure, Dykstra says, "It looks like the
ceasefire is not going to be holding, and it looks like there's going to be
According to the United Nations, more than 9,000 people have
been killed in violence related to the uprising which erupted in March 2011.
Behind the headlines, another story is
emerging. Dykstra explains, "Christians
are obviously caught up not only in the general violence, but they're also being
targeted in cities like Homs where approximately 40,000 Christians have
fled already. They're being targeted by Muslim extremists."
Most of the Christians fled because of
the conflict. But many are now being driven out. Extremist Sunni Muslim groups
have recently started to threaten Christian families in Homs. "What
they're saying is that the Christians supported Assad and that 'you deserve to
be killed or driven out of your homes. We
don't want you here.' Probably only 5000 Christians remain in Homs and the surrounding areas."
"Imagine living in Homs in an area where the so-called freedom-fighters are
entering," says an Open Doors source. "You hear gunshots and bombs exploding.
You can imagine what effect this has. And then one night, the extremists knock
on your door and tell you, ‘We are taking over this area, so maybe it is
time for you to leave.'"
of the fleeing Christians, it's a nightmare revisited. Many made the decision to leave Iraq and flee
to Syria…but now that's not a safe haven, either. More and more are considering fleeing to Lebanon.
to the Open Doors source, even when they reach their destination, the problems
don't go away. They end up living in cramped conditions with their host family.
There are no jobs and no schooling. Traumatized by their experiences, the children
have difficulty sleeping.
This is the situation for an estimated
7,000 Christian families, which are approximately 35,000 persons. Adrift in a
distant and unknown place, Christians are looking to Open Doors and other
organizations for help. Dykstra
says, "Open Doors is trying to give them relief that they need
desperately. Many people have been living outside of homes in churches and
Christian communities, and they're asking for relief packets, food, and medicine."
Dykstra goes on to add that this is another layer of
strengthening the Church in Syria. "We're very involved in Syria over the
years, providing biblical training, trauma counseling, discipleship training. We will continue to provide relief. This only
complicates the whole situation in Syria. You have the Iraqi refugees, and now
you have Christians that are being targeted."
"In the first few months of the conflict, the
church as a whole was quite intimidated," explains the source. "Now the church sees it as an
opportunity, so there are a few churches that are even more active than before,
reaching out to the majority people."
The Christians in Syria are praying
together, too, says Dykstra. "There's
no stability in the country whatsoever. Christians are praying together that
there may be peace and they're praying for their leaders and for the future of Christians."
USA President/CEO Dr. Carl Moeller said the rest of the world must also get on
their knees in prayer for the Christians in Syria, who are facing an uncertain
Specifically, notes Dykstra, "Pray for protection. Open Doors workers
are distributing emergency relief aid
packages, and they're in extreme danger. Pray that the supplies and more would
reach those in greatest need. There are all kinds of roadblocks set up spiritually
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