Syria (ODM/MNN) — It’s easy to get overwhelmed by Syria’s never-ending struggles:
- A four-year civil war
- The ISIS crisis
- The 3 million Syrian people now living as refugees in neighboring nations
- The 6.5 million internally-displaced people eking out an existence within Syria’s borders
But today, Open Doors USA is sharing good news. Through churches and Christian organizations, they’re helping Syrian Christians care for the spiritual and physical needs of more than 9,000 refugee families each month.
In 2011, when the Syrian crisis began, indigenous believers could only help 16 families!
“I give huge thanks to [donors] on behalf of these families for not forgetting us and standing with us long-term,” Pastor Boutros* recently told Open Doors.
“Even though the situation is difficult and prolonged, I thank you that you have continued with us. Through your partnership, we are seeing beautiful results.”
Open Doors staff details those “beautiful results” in a series of recent interviews. We’ve compiled some of the highlights for you below:
What is the mood of the people in your area in Syria?
Boutros: “There is a new desire by the people to flee and leave the country; the people don’t have hope that things will get better. This feeling is increasing. I know hope is only in Christ, so you can imagine how tired the people are who don’t know Christ.”
What is your church doing to help the people?
Boutros: “We have complete faith that God who has helped us in Syria for the past four years will help us in 2015. In the beginning we were helping 16 families; now we are supporting 2,180 families with your support.
“We support families in 10 cities. The majority of the people we are working with are not Christians. The people face real poverty because have they lost their homes, jobs, and some of them lost their parents or children and whatever savings they had. They depend on the support they get.
“The church today is like a tent that cares for those beneath her. And she is like a hospital that cares for those inside. And the most important thing is that the church is like a family for those who feel strange inside their own country.”
What are you doing to support the families?
Boutros: “We do monthly food distribution. We visit them in the places they stay and see what they have, and we see what they need. We have a relationship with the people–there is real communication between us. We are not just giving food or cash. During the visits, the people hear the Gospel. We also visit the sick; we pray for them and try to help with their medical needs.
“I see that having this relationship with the people is the solution to the problems in Syria. Peace comes only through Jesus. When people hear and experience the problems, they want revenge, but the church is doing the work of reconciliation.
“We are also bringing this message through all the programs and activities. For example, we are now holding lectures once a month in the church building where we bring in doctors to talk about different diseases.
“I am very happy with what God is doing and to see that in a time of war and tragedy. The church is offering something entirely different: joy and hope. People are praying and going out in the streets. I pray with them to commit their lives to Christ. I see people who were in despair and have hope again. We are seeing how happy and joyful people are because someone came and visited them and asked about them. This is even more important than the food. The people appreciate that we are knocking on the doors asking what they need.”
Achmad* is another Syrian Christian who shared his story with Open Doors. He grew up in Daraa — the city where protests began in 2011 — but has since fled for his safety.
Tell about the beginning of the protests four years ago.
Achmad: “Before March 2011 Daraa was a peaceful place and an interesting place to live. It was peaceful, and the situation was good. Christians lived in some fear, with the Islamic threat all around us, but we led a simple and peaceful life.
“One day after the revolution in Egypt, Syrians in Daraa started to think why not revolt against the government? Some youth wanted a strike, saying, ‘We want the president (Bashar Assad) out.’ First, this all went peaceful; they only shouted and screamed. Not that the government should go, but only for freedom. After those first days, they started to think they could ask for more. It was a simple start.”
How did the church look at the protests in those early days?
Achmad: “Christians in Syria were in doubt what to do. The church was silent during the first days. After the bombings and the blood, the church took up a role in helping people and providing food to the displaced. I can assure you that we did not know during these first days that the war would become as bad as it is.
“After some days of only shouting on the street, the shooting started. With blood on the streets, it became easy to kill someone. My father said, ‘This will never finish.’”
Did you lose loved ones?
Achmad: “Many friends of mine were killed. Every time I remember my colleagues of school, it is hard to believe that they are gone. We lived together and ate together; now they are dead just for being on the streets. One of the friends that died was like a brother to me.”
What change did the war bring for the Church in Daraa?
Achmad: “Before the war, people in the church, of course, believed in Christ. But it was hard for non-Christians to become a Christian. With the war, it is easier to visit a church as a non-Christian and to pray with a non-Christian. The war shakes the people. They start thinking about right and wrong, and people think about God more and more.
“It’s easier to invite persons to church. As the church distributes aid, people ask: ‘Why do people help us? Why do you help me? I am a Muslim.’ I said, ‘Jesus loves you, and I love you because He loves you.’”
What should Christians in the West pray for?
Achmad: “First, pray for a peaceful government. Pray for the people who live in misery. Pray that God will stop the killing and bloodshed. Pray for a new Syria.”
* = pseudonym