Caught in the Crossfire

Life in war zone chaotic, but evangelistic opportunities abound

April 17, 2013

Rubble is all that remains of this Syrian neighborhood.

As the exodus of Christians from Syria continues unabated, more reports are surfacing of the alarming conditions facing those who choose to remain.

“When people leave their houses in Syria in the morning to go to work, they say goodbye to their families in case they don´t come back. There are suicide bombers and car bombs going off all around,” a ministry leader in Damascus told Christian Aid Mission.

It is estimated that around 70 to 80 percent of the Christian population has fled Syria, particularly from the major cities where the fighting has been most intense. Over one million refugees, both Christian and Muslim, have fled the civil war and poured into the neighboring countries of Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon and Egypt. The majority of those refugees, some 335,000, have sought refuge in Jordan.

Christian Aid Mission assists several Middle East ministries in providing emergency relief and spiritual help, both to Syrian families who stay in their homeland and to refugees who have relocated to other countries.

The stories from inside Syria describe extremely harsh and dangerous living conditions for everyone. Few people are employed. The infrastructure is in tatters. People are beheaded. Girls are raped and killed. The prices for gas and food are ten times what they were two years ago.

But according to the ministry leader, the situation is even more threatening for Christians because they face persecution from all sides of the conflict. There are al-Qaeda, dissidents from the Syrian army, a Muslim group called Victory, and other factions.

Some 300 churches in and around Syria have been damaged or destroyed. Before the revolution, Syria was governed as a secular nation, and Christians enjoyed some measure of freedom to worship in their churches.

Most Christians remain supportive of President Bashar al-Assad. The legal protection afforded them by the current government would most likely vanish, if the rebels seize power.

In spite of the tenuous situation, God is moving and subtle changes are taking place. The Syrian government appears to trust Christians more and is permitting them to freely do mission work and evangelize.

“One reason is because the Christians are not politically active. Their purpose is to build a heavenly kingdom,” explained a spokesperson for Christian Aid Mission. “They are showing the love of Christ in tangible ways that were not possible before the war. Christians now have unlimited opportunities for ministry in Damascus.”

Everywhere they turn, children are subjected to the harsh realities of war.

Syrian believers who remain are providing food packages, clothing, shelter, and New Testaments to people who have been displaced from their homes and relocated to other communities. These acts of compassion give them the opportunity to share the gospel.

“They visit Muslim neighborhoods and help them as much as they can, and they evangelize more than ever before now that the government has given them the green light to do so,” the Syrian ministry leader shared. “Muslims in these areas now trust Christians, because it´s the Christians who provided for them and stayed beside them. Lots of Muslims have experienced the love of Jesus and the Christian faith.”

An aggressive house church movement has begun because of the targeting of Christian worship centers. This plan also makes it safer for Muslims who have converted to Christianity, as they would not be seen entering a church building.

As part of the movement, believers in Damascus have been challenged to hand out at least one New Testament each day. Others are distributing New Testaments to people on the streets and door-to-door. Currently 5000 copies are being transported to the city, with more shipments planned this year. The cost of a New Testament is $5.