Both the Barnabas Fund and Open Doors have been busy highlighting the plight of Christians in Syria over the last week. Their situation is becoming increasingly desperate. According to Barnabas Fund who have partners on the ground there, the city of Homs, the third largest in Syria, has now seen almost its entire Christian population of 50,000 to 60,000 flee for safety as fighting continues in the stricken country.
As the fighting has continued Christians, who make up about 10% of the population have found themselves caught in the middle. The BBC reports that Christians in the past have enjoyed a relatively high degree of religious tolerance and ability to worship freely. But this has now changed dramatically. They are generally seen to be pro-Assad because he has assured them that their future is more secure with him in power.
This has led to opposition forces attacking churches. Church leaders have reported Muslim neighbours turning on the Christians, and that Muslim extremists from other countries have been coming to Homs to join the fighting. Christians have also suffered kidnappings and gruesome murders. Some Christian families, unable to pay a ransom for their relatives’ release and fearing that they may be tortured, have been driven to ask the kidnappers to kill their loved ones at once. Open Doors have posted this message on their Facebook page:
“What’s it like for Christians in Syria? The uncertain future could lead to an exodus of Christians from Syria – in the way that many Christians fled Iraq. “In Iraq, hundreds of thousands of Christians left that country due to all the violence targeting them. But where will a Syrian exodus lead to? Which country will welcome hundreds of thousands of Christian refugees? What is the free world doing… to prepare for that exodus?” asks one believer. The churches in Syria know very well what happened to Iraqi Christians. “They were in many countries not really welcome, so we are afraid that the same will happen to Syrian refugees and that would be a disaster,” he says. Pray that world leaders will have wisdom to know how to respond to the Syrian crisis.”
What can we do in this country about it? We can pray:
- For protection for all the people of Homs and in other parts of Syria who are caught up in the conflict, and that humanitarian aid will reach them.
- For the Christians displaced from their homes or in danger of attack, that God will protect them and meet their needs.
- For an end to the violence and for peace and stability to be restored.
In David Cameron’s Easter speech at 10 Downing Street he said that:
“There’s also an enormous danger in terms of the persecution of minorities and particularly the persecution of Christians. Now, Britain is fully engaged in the world; we have the second largest aid budget of any country in the world. We’re one of the few countries keeping our promise to spend 0.7% of GDP on aid, and we do have real influence, real heft in these countries. I think there’s a really important moment, and this is the challenge, is for the churches and Christians to work together with government on agendas to persuade these newly democratising countries not to persecute minorities and to respect Christians the world over and the right to practise your religion.”
We need to remind our government to do what they can to address the persecution happening in Syria and draw it to the world’s attention. Write to Foreign Secretary William Hague or Under-Secretary of State responsible for Middle East affairs, Alistair Burt asking them to take action. You can contact the Foreign Office via this form.
Finally, both Barnabas Fund and Open Doors are taking donations to provide support for Christians in Syria.
You can donate at the Barnabas Fund website either giving a one off gift or sponsor a Christian family for £18 per month. Barnabas Fund is working with their church partners on the ground to get emergency supplies of food, clothing and medicine to distressed Christian families throughout the country.
Open Doors have set up an appeal to provide 1,000 families in Syria with monthly emergency family relief packs for the next three months. These will be distributed through their local church networks based in Damascus, Aleppo and other centres.