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‘We are less in number but more in power and passion’: Syrian Christian reflects on war 10 years on

by Tola Mbakwe

This week marks ten years since peaceful protests against Syrian President Bashar Assad's government erupted in March 2011, sparking a popular uprising that quickly turned into a full-blown civil war.

Despite a decade of fighting and a broken country, Mr Assad remains firmly in power.

The conflict has killed around half a million people and displaced half of Syria's pre-war population of 23 million, including more than five million who are refugees, mostly in neighbouring countries.

It also had a devastating impact on the country’s Christian population. It decreased from two million in 2010 to under 700,000 today.

Ibrahim is a partner of Christian persecution watchdog Open Doors in Aleppo.

He told Premier Christian News that he’s reminded of the forced Christian exodus every day:

“It’s very difficult for me even to walk in the Christian neighborhoods in the city and I see a house where my friends used to live and a place where I used to go to church with family.

“Christians managed to overcome hundreds of years of persecution in Syria and they stayed. Now this war is so negatively unique, because it resulted in some places to lose their Christian existence. It's very agonizing and it impacted Christians more than anyone else.”

Syria is now economically devastated and divided into three parts. An al-Qaida-linked group dominates the northwestern Idlib province, with Turkey-backed rebels controlling stretches along the Turkish border.

US-backed Syrian Kurdish forces hold around a quarter of the country in the northeast while Mr Assad controls the rest.

Millions of people are being pushed deeper into poverty, and a majority of households can hardly scrape together enough to secure their next meal.

Long queues for petrol stations and quotas of two packs of bread a day for families show how the country is struggling for basics.

The United Nations says more than 80 per cent of Syrians now live in poverty and 60 per cent are at risk of hunger.

However, Ibrahim said the Church in Syria is showing great resilience as it works to rebuild. He has high hopes and dreams for his country and is already seeing God moving.

“The Church is helping the community, is making a huge difference and impact on the community. Many people from the majority religion, they came to the church and they were helped indiscriminately by the Church,” he said.

“The picture that the Church conveyed to the Syrian community is that you are accepted regardless of your ethnic or religious affiliation.

“People from other religious affiliations are coming to Christ. They are experiencing the love of Christ. The picture of their religion is now distorted because of what ISIS and those brutal militias did in the country. They're searching for the real God, the God of love. A lot of people are coming to Christ especially in the north and in the south. People are longing to find and to experience this relationship with God. So we are less in number, but we are more in in power and in passion.”

Ibrahim said despite the many challenges Syrians face, the UK church and faith-based organisations have been instrumental in helping people live through the conflict.

He asked for continued prayers as Syrians try to recover from the war.

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