I have a friend. She lives in Syria. She gets depressed. Her father has been shot at. She doesn’t know who to trust, as the old certainties under the Assad regime crumble away.
There are many other Syrian Christians who have faced far worse: some Christian women have reportedly been raped as part of the war; leading Christian leaders have been kidnapped. The situation has the international community baffled: some advocate arming the rebels – indeed, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have already been flooding arms to the rebels – and some, such as Russia and Iran, have been arming the regime. Others, meanwhile, suggest that the international community should keep arms embargoes and let the efforts concentrate on dialogue and providing humanitarian assistance. The situation is heartbreaking and solutions do not come easy.
There seems to be no doubt that both the rebels and the regime have committed serious war-crimes. Chemical weapon use now appears to be confirmed. Many within the UN are calling for full investigation and bringing those responsible to the International Criminal Court. The situation is heartbreaking and solutions do not come easy.
Yet there is Light!
There is a light shining in the darkness of the land of Syria: although a large number of Christians have been forced to flee the country there are also many who remain. Many of these do so because they see the land as being a place of ancient Biblical Christianity, and they do not want to see the Church expelled from this land.
Before the conflict Christians made up about 10% of the population. In comparison to other countries in the Middle East and North Africa they experienced much freedom to worship in their churches and to live their lives in peace and relative security. Because of this they had become very supportive of the government of Bashar al-Assad, seeing him as a good man that preserved the freedoms that they enjoyed. In the early days of the uprising against the regime Christians supported the regime and, fed with news from official sources – which were often propagandist in nature – they opposed the uprising as being the work of “terrorists”. The stories that came out of that time were horrific even then. It is now much, much worse.
Because Christians supported Assad they became targets for the rebels. Now, in rebel held areas, Christians have to live under a form a sharia law and face intimidation and persecution from Islamist groups within the rebellion. Despite this, many believers choose to remain, and the Light remains with them.
Jesus is the Light of the World
The Christians that remain choose to remain in order that the Light may remain – they seek to witness to the glorious grace of God shown through Jesus Christ His Son. Many are handing out supplies to their (Muslim) neighbours in order to give assistance in the face of severe food shortages. Many are helping to comfort others, even as they themselves need comfort and encouragement. Although many pastors and leaders have been targeted with intimidation and violence, they continue to encourage their flocks in this dark time.
The Syrian church, which is made up of a number of denominations, has been in Syria since the beginning: Paul was on his way to Damascus (the capital of Syria) when the glory of Jesus stopped him on the road, bringing about the famously profound conversion of the to-be Apostle. The Church is determined to remain in Syria.
You Can Be Light!
This post is very different to my normal postings on this blog. I felt God leading me during my times of prayer to write this post and although the news from Syria is commonplace in the media, it is rarely that a Christian perspective is presented.
Open Doors UK, which helps the persecuted Church, has begun the Save Syria Campaign. There is a plea for practical, prayerful and advocacy work by Christians in the rest of the world to stand alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ that are in Syria. We all need to stand with our brethren. We cannot ignore this plea. You can lend your voice to this campaign if you live in a country that frees you to do this, and you can cry out to God wherever you are. If you feel so led, you can also give towards practical support.
Please do consider this and stand alongside our brothers and sisters in Syria. Do also consider using the Twitter (and Google+) hashtag #SaveSyria13 to make some noise about the need to help the church in Syria. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this post.