#15 in Christian persecution, Syria
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President Bashar al-Assad
PROFILE OF PERSECUTION
Church Life 13.9/16.7
National Life 14.3/16.7
Community Life 13.5/16.7
Family Life 13.8/16.7
Private Life 12.9/16.7
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What does persecution look like in Syria?
Even though the public threat of ISIS has largely subsided, Christians in Syria still grapple with daily persecution that may become violent. In areas where Islamic extremist groups are active, leaders of historical church communities may be targeted simply because they are more visible. But leaders of other Christian groups are also vulnerable because they may be more active in evangelism. Church buildings are completely destroyed in many parts of Syria where Islamic extremists had control (or continue to maintain control). Where extremists control territory, any public expression of faith is dangerous. Additionally, every Christian in Syria lives with the constant realization that Islamic extremists have not necessarily left Syria—they’ve just retreated into the shadows, and they may return to public life again in the future.
As the Christian population of Syria has diminished due to the civil war, more and more Syrian Christians come from a Muslim background. This makes them additional targets—the government wants to ensure there is no social upheaval caused by religious conversion, and families and communities may reject, punish or even attack Christians who convert from Islam.
Meet “Anwar,” a Christian in Syria who left his family’s Muslim faith despite his father’s status as a religious leader
“Jesus is everything to me. When I had no one, He was with me, my brother, my companion, my best friend. I talk to Him all the time, I rely on Him, Jesus truly saved my life. When I wanted to kill myself, He pulled me back and gave me hope for the future. When things go wrong, I escape to Jesus. I know He has a good plan for my life.”
What has changed this year?
Violence against Christians decreased in Syria, which is news worth celebrating. And yet, the country remains high on the World Watch List—the pressure on all Christians is extreme, and church leaders are targeted for abuse and persecution. Christians who leave Islam continue to bear a large burden placed on them by government, society and their own families.
Who is most vulnerable to persecution?
In the parts of Syria where Islamic extremists maintain control, Christians remain under significant pressure. ISIS has attacked Christian targets in the last several years, and tensions are high. Places where Turkey has supplied fighters and military support after its invasion in late 2019 are also dangerous for Christians. And finally, Christians who leave Islam to follow Jesus are at risk throughout Syria.
What does Open Doors do to help?
Open Doors works with the local church in Syria through strengthening its leadership and helping the Syrian church be a beacon of hope in Syria. Open Doors supports literature distribution, biblical discipleship and training, trauma counseling and the establishment of community centers (Centers of Hope) that provide services to Syrian Christians and their neighbors.
Population statistic: Johnson T M and Zurlo G A, eds., World Christian Database (Leiden/Boston: Brill, accessed April 2021).
Pray for Syria
Lift up the political and military situation in Syria. The civil war has continued for more than a decade, and even as the worst of the violence seems to be over, the country continues to be broken. Pray that God will bring peace to the country and soften the hearts of those in power to provide for the most vulnerable members of Syrian society.
Pray for Christians in Syria, particularly church leaders and converts from Islam. Pray God would protect them from violence, but that He would also raise their spirits even when daily life seems impossible. Ask God to inflame their hearts with love for Him, and to give them the knowledge the worldwide Church is with them.
Ask God to strengthen the churches that Open Doors works with in Syria. Ask Him to bless our leadership and discipleship training. Pray that God would increase the ministry of our Centers of Hope, that they would be beacons of God’s peace for Christians so devastated by war and Islamic extremism.
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