Updated: Aug 9, 2021
#12 in Christian persecution, Syria What does persecution look like in Syria? Syria’s continuing civil war has made the country a breeding ground for the persecution of Christians. The unrest, which was beginning to lessen, has been exacerbated by the economic crisis caused by COVID-19. Many Christians are still internally displaced or are refugees in other countries as a result of over a decade of war and rising Islamic extremism. In northern Syria, invasion by Turkish forces in late 2019 caused greater instability, and seems to have been used by some Islamic extremists as a cover for opportunities to target Christians. In areas controlled by Islamic extremist groups, public expressions of Christianity are banned and most churches have been seized or destroyed. In government-controlled areas, this threat is less—but there are still abductions of young Christians, and Islamic dissidents, including ISIS militants, are still active. Christians from a Muslim background are vulnerable to pressure from their family and communities, who perceive conversion from Islam as bringing dishonor. What is life like for Christians? Christians in Syria are allowed to meet for worship and community, though this has been restricted during measures to decrease the spread of COVID-19. Throughout the pandemic, Christian ministers (and other religious leaders) have been exempt from restrictions on travel, and are able to meet with believers. While Christianity is not banned by the government, there are laws that contravene certain rights: For example, a Muslim woman may not marry a Christian man, and a Christian divorcee has no custody rights for their children. Christians from a Muslim background are particularly vulnerable to attacks by Islamic militants or by members of their own family. Sometimes, these families even request that local officials covertly monitor Christian converts. Meet Pastor George “I see men, women and children crying of hunger. It’s tragic. Our church saw that now was a time to stand by the people, support them and show Jesus’ love in difficult times.” What has changed in Syria? Persecution remains extreme in public and private life for Christians in Syria, though there is a slight trend toward lessening pressure for Christians. This reflects the shrinking of territory held by Islamic extremist groups. COVID-19 has exacerbated many existing vulnerabilities in the past year. Public pressure on Christians continues to increase, although Christians faced slightly less pressure from their families and communities. There were slightly fewer reports of violence, following a trend from the past couple of years, though threats of attack, abduction and forced marriage remain constant. Who is most vulnerable to persecution? Christians are particularly under pressure in the last bastions of Islamic militant control in Idlib Province in the northwest and in Hasakah Province in the northeast, where the Islamic State group, Turkey forces or opposition groups supported by Turkey have continued to attack civilian and church targets. Christians from a Muslim background are vulnerable to various forms of violent and non-violent persecution across the country, but they are particularly vulnerable in the northwest and northeast. What does Open Doors do to help Christians in Syria? Open Doors partners in Syria are supporting and strengthening the church through Bible distribution, discipleship and leadership training, trauma counseling, and support and rehabilitation for internally displaced Christians and refugees. Population statistic: Johnson T M and Zurlo G A, eds., World Christian Database (Leiden/Boston: Brill, accessed February 2020). Pray for Syria
Pray for Syrian Christians to be able to return to their homes, families, communities and livelihoods, and for God’s continued restoration for those who have already returned.
Pray for Syrian believers to be the light of hope in Syria, providing comfort and wisdom to those who are suffering from trauma or from a lack of food and resources.
Pray for the Word of God to saturate the land of Syria and that people will find new joy, strength and hope when meditating upon it.
Read More - March 12, 2021 Syria’s grim anniversary reveals decade of prayers, God’s faithfulness Read More - January 18, 2021 13 Christians murdered for following Jesus—every day Read More - RELEASE INTERNATIONAL PRAYER SHIELDS, MYANMAR AND MALAYSIA RELEASE INTEMyanmar Please continue to pray for the church in Myanmar, especially during the current unrest. Pray that God will equip and inspire Christians to be peacebuilders and reconcilers. Malaysia Believers fear that Sharia (Islamic law) is being extended. Many say they feel threatened and are considering fleeing the country. Pray that the church in Malaysia will stand firm. Malaysia Pray that the whereabouts of Pastor Raymond Koh would be made known. He was abducted from the street in Malaysia in broad daylight in 2017. Ask God to comfort and strengthen his wife, Susanna and their children. Malaysia Thank God that a court of appeal has ruled that a 1986 government directive restricting Christians from using four ‘prohibited’ words including ‘Allah’ was not a blanket ban. This had posed limitations on Christian recordings, worship and teaching in Malaysia. Malaysia A recent online video identified a number of Malaysian Christians by name and called them ‘enemies of the state’. Ask God to protect these individuals and their reputations. Malaysia The Malay people consider being Muslim as central to their identity. Pray for Christians with a Muslim background: the Government severely punishes Christian converts, including sending them to harsh re-education centres. Malaysia Pray for Christians in Malaysia who are concerned about growing intolerance against believers, and Islamist groups trying to stir up religious hated.