After a decade of civil war, the faith of Christians has been tested by many tribulations. The rise of Islamist militant groups, including Islamic State, fuelled violent anti-Christian persecution on top of the terrible war that all Syrians endured. While Western media largely focused on the Syrian army’s war against the rebels, Christians were targets of kidnappings and murders at the hands of Islamist rebel groups.
Many Christians have lost loved ones – some of whom were martyred for their faith. Faced with gruelling hardship, cut off from all help by sanctions, some now struggle with depression. Food and medicine shortages, bombed-out homes, lack of employment opportunities are just some of the difficulties they endure in parts of the country. Additionally in 2020, wildfires devastated forests and olive groves and several church ministers died as Covid-19 rampaged through the population.
Syria’s north-eastern Hassake Governorate is home to tens of thousands of mostly Assyrian and Armenian Christians. In 2019, Turkish troops and Islamist jihadists advanced into this area insisting there would be “no room for Christians”. One of their weapons has been water. In August 2020, in the midst of the scorching summer heat, airstrikes on the Alok pumping station, deprived many residents of water for weeks.
Before the civil war, around 10% of Syria’s 22 million population was Christian. Many were descendants of survivors of the Armenian genocide perpetuated by the Ottoman Turkish government, which peaked in 1915. Unusually for a Muslim-majority country, Christians in Syria had enjoyed respect and equality until the rise of Islamist groups during the civil war.
Huge numbers of Syrian Christians have fled their country since the civil war began in 2011, but have often faced discrimination and sometimes violence in the countries where they found themselves.
Pray that Christians forced to flee north-east Syria will find safety and a new home. Give thanks that the faith of Christians has emerged stronger from the furnace of affliction. Pray that the Lord will continue to provide for them as they rebuild their lives.
The above content can also be found in the Praying for the Persecuted Church (2021-2022) booklet