Where Do You Flee When It Seems the Whole World Hates You?
Where do you flee when it seems the whole world hates you?
That’s the question that several million Syrian Christians have had to ask themselves during the chaos of Syria’s civil war and the subsequent barbaric rise of ISIS.
You are probably aware that today’s refugee crisis is the worst that the world has seen since the close of World War II. Syria is an epicenter of that crisis, and millions of Syrians have fled for safety by crossing borders into neighboring countries. Some have traveled much farther, looking for peace and opportunity in North Africa and Europe. A small percentage, so far about 6,700 people, have been granted asylum in the U.S. Only 23 of those 6,700 identify themselves as Christians.
What has happened to the estimated 2.4 million Christians who lived in Syria before all the chaos began?
Back in January, a Heaven’s Family partner whom I’ll call Gabriel (for his protection) began asking that very question. Using his network of contacts in the region, he gained access inside Syria to explore communities around Syria’s capital, Damascus (the same Damascus to which Paul was journeying when he encountered Jesus). Gabriel was shocked by what he learned.
Many Christians, he discovered, had fled to safer regions outside of Damascus, but they were still living inside Syria. When Gabriel asked them why they had not attempted to flee the country with other refugees, they explained that bordering countries also have Muslim majorities. They have no doubts that they will face persecution inside or outside their home country. For that reason, they are laying low in Syria.
On his first trip inside Syria, Gabriel found an area populated by over 1,000 internally-displaced Christian families, most of whom had left all they owned as they fled their homes for safety. They had found shelter in small rooms, cramming up to ten people in a single tiny living space. Food and other essential resources were scarce and some of the displaced families, in their desperate fight for survival, had resorted to competing with rats for discarded scraps of food in heaps of trash. And Gabriel brought us a very troubling message borne from their suffering: “We feel as though we’ve been forgotten by Christians around the world.”
During that first fateful trip, a mission of hope was birthed in Gabriel. Risking the continual dangers of the war zone, our brave partner now makes the journey inside Syria each month to offer life-sustaining food, essential living supplies, and the truth of God’s Word.
Recently, Gabriel sent Heaven’s Family an update, in which he introduced us to the Almasi family. Before escaping their home town, this precious family was captured by ISIS and taken to their town’s public square, where militants demanded they denounce Christ and convert to Islam—or die. Despite their refusal, the father, mother and daughter were spared from death and evicted from the city. Their two eldest sons, separated from their parents, were not so fortunate. Later, the dreaded news reached their ears: their two sons, along with many other Christians, had been executed and buried en masse. Gabriel’s God-timed visit provided much-needed aid and comfort in the midst of their overwhelming sorrow. His visit also sparked some hope that Christians outside Syria have not forgotten them.
Gabriel’s resources are very limited, so I’m hoping to raise $15,000 to help him continue to offer practical help and hope for the many other Christian families he visits each month. Granted, many Syrian Christians are members of ancient Orthodox traditions and they have yet to experience a spiritual rebirth. But there are born-again believers among Syria’s Christians, and Gabriel is carrying the gospel to hearts that have opened in the midst of hardship.
Will you help us serve our spiritual family in Syria? This is one more glorious opportunity to serve some of the “least of these,” advance Jesus’ kingdom, lay up treasure in heaven, and let Syrian Christians know that we have not forgotten them.
Although I was not able to include any photos of Gabriel or his beneficiaries (for safety’s sake), I have included one photo, similar to many that I’m sure you’ve seen, that helps us realize what life is currently like for so many people in Syria. Please do take a look at it (above) as you consider how to help.
And as with all my bi-monthly appeals like this one, I’m an automatic investor as a member of Heaven’s Family’s Compassion Club. May I encourage you to also become a member at www.heavensfamily.org/cc? Then you’ll be joining me in advancing Jesus’ kingdom every month around the world in many ways.
Thanks for caring!