World Watch List: 11
Leader: President Bashar al-Assad
Population: 18.4 million
Main Religion: Islam
Government: Republic under an authoritarian regime
Source of Persecution: Islamic Oppression
In cooperation with local partners and churches, Open Doors supports the church in Syria through:
- Bible and Christian literature distribution
- Biblical, discipleship, and leadership training
- Socio-economic development
- Rehabilitation programmes for displaced Christians
- Emergency aid relief
“The families are perplexed and confused about their future. They are without jobs, their houses are destroyed or damaged. There are so many challenges in people’s lives.”
– Pastor Abdallah of Alliance Church in Aleppo, Syria
Source of persecution: Islamic oppression
Before the civil war began in 2011, Christians had a relatively large amount of freedom to practice their faith. This, however, changed with the arrival of militant Islamic groups. Currently, these groups control less than 25% of the country. The Islamic State caliphate was destroyed in March 2019, but its members continue to execute attacks in various parts. Fighting between the Syrian government and militant groups leave Christians caught in the crossfire.
Radical groups vs the government
In areas controlled by radical Islamic groups, most historic churches have been either demolished or used as Islamic centres. Public expressions of Christian faith are prohibited, and church buildings or monasteries cannot be repaired or restored. All Christians are at risk and live under tight restrictions, especially Christians from a Muslim background. They are also put under pressure by their family, as their conversion brings great dishonour to them.
In government-controlled areas of Syria, surveillance has reportedly returned to churches. The regime views social stability as more important than religious freedom, and will act against any group that may threaten the status quo. Conversion from Islam to Christianity or any other religion might possibly cause community conflict and is thus discouraged by them.
Daily life for Christians and others in Syria is now concentrated on survival. The prices for basic necessities are high, and many suffer psychological trauma from the war. Most Christians are unemployed and rely on relief aid.
- The number of Christians in Syria has dwindled dramatically since the start of the civil war. Pray for the remaining believers to be strong, to rely on God’s grace, so that they can be a light in the darkness.
- Thank God for the churches that are serving and ministering to the people in this difficult time. Pray that they are able to get the necessary resources to continue their work to take care of the widows, orphans, disabled, and poor around them.
- For an end to the fighting so that there is peace in the land.