Bombs exploded near Sozan’s house on that day in October 2019. Her house is near Syria’s border with Turkey, and the Turkish military had begun their offensive into northern Syria.
A huge explosion shook the house. “We were so afraid,” Sozan says. “We prayed a lot. We heard sounds of the explosions. Two bombs fell close to our house. But when this was happening, Hannan, the wife of [ Open Doors’ local partner] Pastor George, called us and offered us to come to [a safer] place. We ran out of our house and we saw more people running. We stayed in the house of the pastor.” After some days, things calmed down.
It was just one moment, but it was yet another place where this specific church has made a difference.
Since the start of the Syrian civil war almost 10 years ago, Open Doors has stood with the local church to help Christians—believers who are forced to flee war, threatened by extremists, persecuted and who lost everything.
When we met with the 22-year-old Sozan and her family, the situation in Qamishli had calmed down. Bombs are not falling anymore. But the situation remains complicated—and coronavirus has complicated it even more since we spoke with Sozan.
Sozan and her family are new believers who came from Islam. This is one of the families you supported when the bombs fell in 2019.
“I am from a Muslim background,” Sozan says by way of introduction. “I wasn’t deeply involved with Islam and I didn’t have peace, I had no love, I felt hatred in my heart.”
About 90 percent of Syrians are Muslim. There are no reliable current statistics, but before the crisis in Syria, an estimated 7 percent to 8 percent of the population—2.2 million at that time—were Christians. It’s estimated only 744,000 believers remain. So many Christians have fled the country that some churches are nearly empty. And yet, the empty spots left by those believers are being filled by new believers who are finding Jesus.
Sozan’s brother was the first person who told her about Jesus. She started reading the Bible.
“When I started to read, I read this verse in Matthew 11:28:’Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,'” she remembers. “Jesus touched my heart with that verse . There is no other Savior than Jesus. I went through a lot of difficulties, but I am in His hands, He helped me to pass the problems.’I will be with you, don’t be afraid,’ Jesus promises.”
Sozan went to church for the first time. “There I saw that there was no other solution for me than Jesus,” she says. “The Holy Spirit started to work in me.” She pauses. Her voice breaks, tears run over her cheeks. She grabs a tissue to wipe her nose. She then takes a deep breath and continues her story.
Believers like Sozan need our help!
Christians in Syria and Iraq and around the world—sisters and brothers like Sozan—need our help. They’re constantly at risk because of war, Islamic extremism, COVID-19 lockdowns and daily discrimination. But through your gift today, you can show them they have a global Family who loves them.
“People in the neighborhood started talking negative about us, as we were open about our conversion,” she says. “One day, I think about six weeks after my conversion, I was out with my sister Arya. A group of men came to hurt us, to persecute us. We were afraid, both of us were crying. We were so afraid we would be killed. But then Jesus appeared to me. He said to me:’Don’t be afraid.’ Then the people all of a sudden disappeared; they even apologized. That can only be God’s work.”
Though she sheds some tears, Sozan has a positive outlook. “Persecution is for the glory of God, so it is OK with us,” she says. “Jesus says that in the world we will face difficulties, but that He has overcome the world.
“Jesus is the only one who gives me eternal life,” she says. “He is the one who says He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. I now have a beautiful life. I continue to pray to Jesus—when I do so, I won’t be in trouble. I won’t hide my faith. Why should I? Less than a year ago, I was baptized.”
Sozan and her family are one of the Syrian families that are helped through a local church that has become a Center of Hope—an Open Doors-supported program to create community outreach resources for Christians. These places helped Syrian Christians during the Turkish incursion in fall 2019 and have been helping distribute emergency aid during the coronavirus crisis.
“We really were in a poor situation; we are so thankful for the help we got. Also, in persecution the church stood with us,” Sozan says. “We received relief items, we got shelter when we faced persecution. God told His children to help others like us. Through that, we are feeling that God is with us—that He is not leaving us at all.”
Sozan now teaches Sunday school at her church in Syria—and the future of the Syrian church loves her!
She dreams that many more Syrians will know the Lord Jesus. “I can say, life for us was like hell before we came to Jesus,” she says. “[It was] like living in a forest full of monsters. I would like you also to pray that we will come out of this swamp of persecution. Jesus has done a lot of miracles for us. We can’t thank and worship Him enough for that.”
- Please pray for the nation of Syria, pray for salvation for everyone.
- Pray that God will open the eyes of the people, that they might accept Jesus.
- Pray for God’s protection for us when we leave our houses.
International Day Of Prayer For The Persecuted Church
War. Persecution. Pandemic. Find the hope keeping the Syrian church alive against the odds.
Join the global Family to pray on November 15 (or at a time most suitable for you).