(Photos by Douma Revolution)
Syria (ODM/MNN) ¯ Syria was wracked with protests beginning Friday--another manifestation of the upheaval since the anti-government movement began 14 months ago.
Jerry Dykstra, spokesman with Open Doors USA, says despite an April ceasefire, "Things are breaking apart. We've seen that with the twin car blasts in Damascus that killed 55 outside of the Syrian Intelligence Compound on Thursday, and other bombings also."
While the United Nations doesn't want to go so far as to say the agreement is a complete failure, Dykstra says, "It looks like the ceasefire is not going to be holding, and it looks like there's going to be more violence."
According to the United Nations, more than 9,000 people have been killed in violence related to the uprising which erupted in March 2011.
Behind the headlines, another story is emerging. Dykstra explains, "Christians are obviously caught up not only in the general violence, but they're also being targeted in cities like Homs where approximately 40,000 Christians have fled already. They're being targeted by Muslim extremists."
Most of the Christians fled because of the conflict. But many are now being driven out. Extremist Sunni Muslim groups have recently started to threaten Christian families in Homs. "What they're saying is that the Christians supported Assad and that 'you deserve to be killed or driven out of your homes. We don't want you here.' Probably only 5000 Christians remain in Homs and the surrounding areas."
"Imagine living in Homs in an area where the so-called freedom-fighters are entering," says an Open Doors source. "You hear gunshots and bombs exploding. You can imagine what effect this has. And then one night, the extremists knock on your door and tell you, ‘We are taking over this area, so maybe it is time for you to leave.'"
For many of the fleeing Christians, it's a nightmare revisited. Many made the decision to leave Iraq and flee to Syria...but now that's not a safe haven, either. More and more are considering fleeing to Lebanon.
According to the Open Doors source, even when they reach their destination, the problems don't go away. They end up living in cramped conditions with their host family. There are no jobs and no schooling. Traumatized by their experiences, the children have difficulty sleeping.
This is the situation for an estimated 7,000 Christian families, which are approximately 35,000 persons. Adrift in a distant and unknown place, Christians are looking to Open Doors and other organizations for help. Dykstra says, "Open Doors is trying to give them relief that they need desperately. Many people have been living outside of homes in churches and Christian communities, and they're asking for relief packets, food, and medicine."
Dykstra goes on to add that this is another layer of strengthening the Church in Syria. "We're very involved in Syria over the years, providing biblical training, trauma counseling, discipleship training. We will continue to provide relief. This only complicates the whole situation in Syria. You have the Iraqi refugees, and now you have Christians that are being targeted."
"In the first few months of the conflict, the church as a whole was quite intimidated," explains the source. "Now the church sees it as an opportunity, so there are a few churches that are even more active than before, reaching out to the majority people."
The Christians in Syria are praying together, too, says Dykstra. "There's no stability in the country whatsoever. Christians are praying together that there may be peace and they're praying for their leaders and for the future of Christians."
Open Doors USA President/CEO Dr. Carl Moeller said the rest of the world must also get on their knees in prayer for the Christians in Syria, who are facing an uncertain future.
Specifically, notes Dykstra, "Pray for protection. Open Doors workers are distributing emergency relief aid packages, and they're in extreme danger. Pray that the supplies and more would reach those in greatest need. There are all kinds of roadblocks set up spiritually and physically."
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Source: Mission Network News