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Open Doors International
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Open Doors International
World News

'God has protected us': Syrian pastor sees church thrive despite growing persecution

by Heather Preston

Christians have continued to face persecution in Syria as a result of the ongoing conflict which began in 2011.

Since the start of the civil war, hundreds of thousands of people have been either displaced or killed as bombings, airstrikes and violent attacks remain common place.

In parts of the country which are under the control of Islamic extremists, Christians are forced to pay protection money, adhere to a strict dress code and dietary rules, and cannot express their faith publicly.

Religious freedom charity Open Doors ranks Syria at number 11 on its 2020 list of the top 50 countries where Christians face the most extreme persecution.

Despite many fleeing the conflict, the gospel message has continued to bring hope and restoration to lives there.

Pastor Abdalla Homsi, of the Evangelical Christian Alliance Church of Aleppo felt called by God to remain in the country with his family to serve their 600 strong congregation.

Speaking to Premier he said: "At times during the crisis I would tell my wife 'you can go out of Aleppo and stay in another place in safe place.' But she tells me, 'no, I will stay here with you to take care of the church and our community'.

"Throughout the crisis God has supported and protect us. For that reason I continue to stay in Aleppo."

Pastor Abdalla helps to provide medical care to victims of the conflict and oversees trauma care and assistance to the community to help rebuild homes and livelihoods. 

"We help many, many families to buy food, pay rent, get work, and support them with their health. In everything they need we try to support them. We help about 2,000 people every month."

He says he has seen his congregation continue to thrive despite an initial exodus of the Christian community.

"Maybe 50 per cent left and we lost many leaders. But the Lord was working with people and we have seen many, many people come to church and now they are members and have a new life with Jesus. 

"Before the crisis we had one Sunday school, now we have three meetings for children. We have seen much blessing from God."

Open Doors is calling on the UK government to recognise the vital work that local faith leaders offer to those facing persecution and have launched a report in the House of Commons to highlight the trends and dynamics of global persecution.

Open Doors UK and Ireland CEO Henrietta Blyth told Premier: "Our research shows the people who make the biggest difference for persecuted Christians in the field are local faith leaders. They are often the first people there when emergency or crisis strikes. They are the people long term who can improve lives and bring restoration and healing to communities."
 

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