A Christian human rights group’s effort to bring peace to Syria’s Christians through prayer has been answered by bombs and rockets.
That’s the assessment of Open Doors spokesman Jerry Dykstra, who says there were multiple attacks.
“Dozens of rockets, shells, and mortars exploded near places set aside for a day of prayer in Syria. Unsecured roads made it difficult for Christians to travel to the sites set aside for public prayer services,” Dykstra said.
Dykstra adds that weather conditions also created a challenge.
“Also, unusual rain, lightening, and a sudden drop in temperature further hampered the events,” Dykstra said. “However, our sources in Syria tell us that prayer services went forward anyway.”
The prayer time was promoted by Open Doors – at church sites both in Syria as well as the United States. The focus was the disasters that have been inflicted on Christians in Syria because of the civil war, where essentially a radical al-Qaida-type faction is rebelling against a different Muslim power structure, catching Christians in the middle.
Open Doors reported that there was a huge participation among the churches remaining in Syria.
Because of the civil war, some stories also are slow in being reported in the free world.
One such story comes from Alliance Church of Damascus pastor Edward Awabdeh. Awabdeh says he and his wife have decided that they will stay in Syria, no matter the risk.
“Fighting gets closer and closer to where we live. It’s now at some hundreds of meters of a distance,” he said. “Back in March, mortar grenades exploded next to our other church building in Jaramana around 17:00 hours. There were people in the church but no people hurt of the congregation. Every day we have several explosions around that church.
“On the 14th of March we returned to Damascus. My wife Rana said to me it was not a good idea, so close to the second anniversary of the revolution on 15 March. She wanted to stay till 16 March,” Awabdeh said. “But we went back. We got out of our car at our church building in Damascus, a bullet fell on Rana’s jacket.”
“You see, we had to stay,” Rana said.
“You see how God is protecting you,” Awabdeh added.
The pastor said that even in the middle of a civil war, they are still able to have peace in their heart and mind. The pastor says that in spite of the constant danger and shelling, his church is strong.
“The church is doing very well. Many are involved in the ministry, and we are getting together, there is a big commitment,” Awabdeh said. “It is very obvious that God is doing something. We hear people that come to our church now saying: Although we lost everything, we won Christ. This is the time for the church, we feel this strongly as our time.”
He said now it is time for the church to work – to give hope, spread peace and support refugees.
“Humanly speaking it is not easy to find peace. Last night the whole building was shaking because of the bombings. Honestly, it is amazing the peace me and my wife feel, there is no explanation for that, besides the Lord,” Awabdeh said.
“We also have a big sense of pastorship, of pastoring the people, stay side by side with them, to encourage them. Our presence is also a message: we have to stay, we have to trust in His protection. We’re not living by anxiety; the Lord is giving us a wonderful time,” Awabdeh said.
However, Awabdeh says there is the heartbreaking side.
“On the other hand many of the church had to leave because of the risks and their safety. We lost some real core people. That makes us sad; that breaks our hearts,” Awabdeh said.
“They are flesh of our flesh, they were very effective people. Right now some 30 percent of the people have left; two out of five elders, three out of seven worship leaders, three out of five youth leaders,” Awabdeh said.
“It is risky, yes. There are explosions, all is very unpredictable. When you need to drive through the city you run a high risk. Roads are closed. Twenty-four hours a day there is shooting and shelling,” Awabdeh said. “But for us Christians it is not the same, we have a different ‘GPS’ leading us. Thank God for his presence in our lives, for his hand, for his peace. God really laid his hands on us.”
He said he believes many of those who left will return if and when the situation stabilizes, although some have emigrated to other points and won’t be back.
A Syrian-born American citizen who is using the name Zak to protect his family still in Syria told WND his family is concerned about the retaliation that will take place against Christians if the rebels take power.
Zak says his family believes that the U. S. is mistaken to believe the rebels are preferable to Assad.
“If at the deepest levels of our intelligence operations there has been an understanding or belief that these radicalized elements could be neutralized when need be (after Assad falling), no one is buying it,” Zak’s family said.
“They will turn on us, they will harm innocent people as well as our interests as a nation. Events counter to our values and principles as a nation would be minimalized so as not to appear to be a direct result of our policies and strategic efforts in supporting it,” Zak’s family said in a statement.
“It would become not about what is happening, it would be about what is being reported as truth that matters,” they said.
Zak also agrees with reports that American news outlets have largely ignored the plight of Syrian Christians. Zak adds that his family is also upset with the U. S. government for supporting the rebels.
“The West has essentially made a deal with the devil. They’ve put immediate political interests ahead of human interests and our nation’s principles. We’ve altogether ignored the reality of what our policies will ultimately mean to the Syrian people and Christians there,” Zak said.
“To my family and friends, there is absolute and unquestioned agreement that if the Assad regime falls there will be extended chaos. Those with an extremist ideology will take control because no one in the West will take the massive necessary steps to prevent it,” Zak said.
“If this happens, what really takes place and human rights issues will become hidden behind a push to report on efforts to stabilize the country through political discourse. It will not be reported but in passing,” Zak said.