Editor's note: The following piece was submitted by a pastor in Syria, where Open Doors is working alongside Christian partners. Due to security reasons, his name can not be revealed.
It was much-unexpected turmoil. Not even in our wildest dreams did we imagine the violence that is sweeping across the country now. For many years Syria enjoyed peace and stability in the heart of the unstable Middle East. We were a safe haven for our neighbors. We received displaced people and refugees from other countries like Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, Sudan, and even from Somalia and other far-away areas.
Yet now the violence pushed the host people out of their homes, fleeing for their lives. Many are displaced internally and many others are external refugees living in the most humiliating circumstances, deprived of even shelter, clean water, power, food and medical care.
Millions are not sleeping in their own beds, forced out of their homes to find themselves with their children homeless and living in public parks or in the wilderness. Others are not sure if they or their children and loved ones will see the light of a new day. Tens of thousands of families lost loved ones: a child, a father, a mother or a husband.
Hundreds of the injured died for lack of medical care. Thousands of children go to bed terrified of the sound of shelling. Hundreds of thousands are in camps in neighboring countries.
My people are hurting. I can cry like Nehemiah because the walls of our cities are burnt and the people in great trouble and disgrace. I can weep like Jeremiah because of the intensity and the spread of evil. I can mourn like David because of the indiscriminate brutal killing of innocent people -- children, women, elderly, youth subject to shelling or under the rubble of their homes.
Neither fighting party is the true mother of this child, this country. Their worship of the idol of power and their desire to win is too cruel to care for the child they claim that they are fighting for. Innocent people are paying the heavy toll of this evil. It is gloomy, sad and painful.
The only good news is that the church is moving wholeheartedly to help relieve some of the suffering, and the Lord is surely opening hearts to receive the gospel.
Thank God we are the CHURCH of the living God. We are here in this country at such a time in history not just to mourn, though mourning is certainly proper.
We are here for a divine reason; we trust and rely on our sovereign loving Lord. We believe that we are in the midst of a spiritual war. In this country there are many who are much more effective than us militarily, politically, economically and socially, but none have the privilege of being effective in this spiritual battle like we are.
We thank God because the Church is united across the country in prayer 24 hours a day, seven days a week; praying for the glory of God to dwell in the Church, praying for an end to the bloodshed, praying for peace in the country, praying for keeping the church's faithful witness, to reach out to the suffering, to share the divine cure of the gospel, to speak the word of the Lord in all boldness.
Each lost soul is, to us, an eternal loss. We pray that the evil powers of darkness will be defeated in our land, the values of false religion will be exposed for what they are and despised and rejected, and for many souls to come to know the love and forgiveness of Christ and to enjoy His saving grace.
While revenge, power and hatred are the worshiped gods and the highest values in a dirty sectarian political fight, by God’s grace we are sowing the seeds of love and forgiveness. The Church is active in relief work, trying to reach the suffering with the love of Christ. It is our battle to be a church that upholds biblical values and keeps its spiritual focus, where our communities are deeply divided along sectarian lines and severely polarized politically.
Yet, counting on the Lord's power by the Holy Spirit we know that we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
We decided to adopt the motto of a Lebanese pastor who lived through the heat of the civil war in his country: "Our loyalty is to Christ, our submission is to the laws of the land, and our love is to all." While we can see and sense the evil powers spreading a dark cloud over the country, closing the door for the light of hope, we still trust our all-sovereign God “who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ.” We “see darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon His Church and his glory appears over it."
We deeply appreciate the prayers of God's people everywhere; it is a rare time where the Church in Syria is feeling the true oneness of the body of Christ all over the globe. For this, we thank the Lord, for it is a great encouragement to us.
c. 2012 Open Doors USA. Used with permission.
An estimated 100 million Christians worldwide suffer interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith in Christ, with millions more facing discrimination and alienation. Open Doors supports and strengthens believers in the world's most difficult areas through Bible and Christian literature distribution, leadership training and assistance, Christian community development, prayer and presence ministry and advocacy on behalf of suffering believers. To partner with Open Doors USA, call toll free at 888-5-BIBLE-5 (888-524-2535) or go to www.OpenDoorsUSA.org.
Publication date: October 4, 2012