Often media headlines don’t capture the human misery within the crises around the world.
Statistics and political theories don’t portray the tragedy that Christians in Syria have been living since the horrific civil war began three years ago. Open Doors researchers documented that there were more Christians martyred (1,213) for their faith in Syria last year than any other country. Syria is ranked No. 3 on Open Doors 2014 World Watch List of countries where persecution of Christians for religious reasons is most severe. Also, almost 75 percent of the world lives in areas where there are severe restrictions on the Christian faith.
But to bring the statistics of Syria to a human level, consider the story of Hanna in her own words. Hanna is a Christian woman living in Damascus with her husband. She and her husband have two young daughters. Hanna works in a school. For over a year Hanna has been bearing her soul about what daily life is like in dangerous Damascus.
“I’m in church while I’m telling you this. In the room next to me, there is a service going on for refugees. We have two meetings a day now, because prayer is the only thing that we can still do. Every morning when I wake up, I’m relieved. The shootings and the strange voices I heard when I went to sleep are over. Our neighborhood will not be in the hands of the terrorists today.
“But that doesn’t mean we’re safe. Regularly when we walk the streets we see bombs coming down, or cars exploding. Then people tell us: run from this place, a bomb has just come down, it will explode soon. So, then we run for our lives.
“More and more the bombs seem to be aimed at churches. The roof of the school of our church was also hit. Fortunately, the children were in the church at that time and thanks to God nobody got hurt. It’s difficult to explain to the children what happened. While we could restore the roof quite soon, of course they were afraid to return to that place. We try to explain to them that God is in control, no matter what.
“He is always there, although the devil wants us to believe a different story. I notice that it really helps the children to pray, also my two daughters. It helps them to keep calm and sleep well. God is in their hearts and gives them peace.
“Recently I was at a youth meeting of our church where we spoke about forgiveness, quite a challenging topic in our situation as you might understand. But God asks us to forgive our enemies, no matter what. Jesus’ words about forgiveness really touched the heart of a 12-year old girl that attended the meeting. She stood up in tears and asked if she could share something.
“Still crying, she told about her 18-year old brother, who had been beheaded because he was a Christian. We all knew this boy. The sister was so angry at his murderers. But now, she told us, she realized for the first time that she had to forgive them, like Jesus has forgiven us. All in the room were deeply impressed by the story of this girl. We had a deep realization of what forgiving means.
“God bless all of you who are praying for us. Please continue praying. The thought that so many of you are praying for us gives us strength.”
As we consider the political rhetoric in global talks to end the horror in Syria, let us not forget the human toll of people such as Hanna. Her life illustrates the suffering millions of Christians endure in countries that persecute people who choose to follow Jesus.
But tonight I’m focused on Hanna. I am saying a prayer for Hanna, her husband and their two girls. Will you join me today in prayer for all those Christians such as Hanna and her family who are standing strong in their faith despite the pain of persecution and violence.
Dr. David Curry is President and CEO for Open Doors USA (www.OpenDoorsUSA.org, based in Santa Ana, California), the American arm of Open Doors International, a worldwide ministry supporting persecuted Christians since 1955.
Publication date: February 24, 2014