“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-9
On 10 June 2014, members of Islamic State (then known as ISIS), seized Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul. An estimated 500,000 residents joined a mass exodus out of the city.
Christians were later given an ultimatum from Islamic State – convert to Islam, pay special taxes for non-Muslims as a ‘protection fee’ or leave. The statement from Islamic State concluded, “…if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword.” Houses belonging to believers were sprayed with the Arabic letter ن – ‘N’, standing for Nazarene, or Christian.
What happened in Iraq last year saw thousands of Christians flee their homes, lose all of their possessions, and forced to start their lives anew. It also saw Christians in the West joining their suffering family – online.
#WeAreN – We have most likely all seen this hashtag somewhere, started in response to Islamic State’s onslaught against Christians. ‘We are N – Nazarene. We are standing with our persecuted family.’ Facebook Newsfeed’s began filling with this symbol ن as believers changed their profile pictures to show support for Christians in Iraq. At Open Doors, we decide to hold a Day of Prayer for Iraq, asking the church in Australia to unite in prayer.
It was 23 August last year that we held the Day of Prayer for Iraq, which saw tens of thousands of people come together to pray for Iraq – for both the church and members of Islamic State. We prayed for revival in that country, that many would be strengthened in their faith in Jesus and that many others would come to Him in the midst of the terror.
But what has happened in Iraq in the last year has only gotten progressively worse for the people of Syria.
Across the border, Syria the smaller neighbour of Iraq, also has a substantial Islamic State presence and bears the heavy burden of war.
Syria has been caught in a bitter civil war since 2011, Islamic State, the government, al-Nusra Front (previously al-Qaida), and other militants all vie for control of the country. Close to half of the population of Syria is now displaced.
The church in Syria faces its greatest challenge yet. Not only is the church opposed and pressed on all sides but it has been severely weakened in numbers. Before the war there was close to 1.5 million Christians in Syria but as of November 2014, 700,000 have fled and the number is growing.
Despite this God provides for his people, and is making His name known.
Seats in Syrian churches are filling up faster than they are being emptied, Christians who leave or are killed are replaced by people wanting to know the saving grace of Jesus. More and more Muslims are coming to Christ and asking the reason for Christians’ hope in this darkness.
Last year Open Doors had its largest ever response in Australia with Christians praying for Iraq. This year we want the church to come together again and pray for Syria. On 14 November we want to cover the nation of Syria in prayer.
Visit www.opendoors.org.au/syria to register yourself or your church and we will send you prayer resources in the coming weeks.
You can also join our Facebook event where we will be posting stories and prayer requests from Syria.
DATE CHANGED – DAY OF PRAYER FOR SYRIA.
17 October 2015.
The need for prayer is urgent for the 3.9 million Syrian refugees and also for the 7.6 million people displaced inside Syria. Because of this need we have brought forward the Day of Prayer to 17 October.