Syria (MNN) — Bombs have detonated. Guns have fired. Parents and
children have dropped to the ground. Yet violence may be even worse than
outsiders realize in Syria.
International Mission Board reports that one Southern Baptist
worker often tells churches in the United States that things aren't nearly as
bad in the Middle East as they are portrayed in the news. But in the case of
Syria, where a ban on international media coverage blocks access to most areas,
he believes the situation is even worse than the bloody images splattering TV
screens and newspapers.
The body count there mounts daily, reports IMB. The Syrian army
began raining rockets and mortar fire on the city of more than 1 million people
on February 4. Attacks continue, killing both rebels and civilians in
neighborhoods controlled by insurgents. Women weep for dead husbands and
children. Families hide in their homes, fearing not only artillery fire, but
death by sniper if they step outside.
"It has the potential of descending into full-out civil war, and
that would be tragic," the Southern Baptist worker says. "It's such a huge
burden on my heart right now. This is a country of over 20 million people —
Sunni, Shia, Alawite, Druse, Orthodox, Christian, Bedouin and Gypsies, you name
it. And it's a place where we have virtually no access, no sustainable presence
or witness right now. It's one of the darkest, least-engaged places in the
whole Middle East."
The immediate future looks bleak, he adds. Despite increasing
army defections to the rebels, the Syrian military remains far more powerful
and well-equipped than insurgent factions do. He doubts the Assad regime–which
has held power for 40 years–will give it up. Even if they do, the many
contending forces in Syria and the wider region complicate Syria's future.
The Lord is moving, but the worker adds, "We have a crisis of
belief. We want to believe that God is at work, but it's hard because of
everything that's going on…. This is all part of His plan. Whether in war or
peace, pray that God will be glorified. Pray that doors will be opened
in these places. Pray for fertile soil."
Christians are asked to pray that believers in Syria and beyond
will be courageous.
"Our tendency is to pray for preservation," he says, "but we
should pray for much more: that they would be a light, that they would be bold,
even in situations where they are oppressed and suffering. I want to pray for
more than just preservation. I want to pray that this would be a time that the
church would be bold and courageous. In times of war and human suffering, when
people's needs are so great, is when they are open to the Gospel. It's a time
when they need to be confronted with the love and the claims of Christ."
Most of all, he pleads, pray for access to the millions of
people in the Middle East who hunger for real peace and have nowhere to turn.
"We know that God is moving; we just need access to these
people," he says. "We feel there is fertile soil for the Gospel right now."