OVERVIEW: Syrian Christians’ lives have been severely disrupted since the civil war began in 2011. Between 750,000 and 1 million Christians have fled the country. In the same period, many Muslims have come to Christ. Churches in Syria have been a beacon of hope and a source of peace for Syrians of all backgrounds throughout the war. Syrians come to the church for a number of reasons: out of desperation, in search of food, in search of meaning and truth, and for answers about the Christian faith. The news that neighboring host countries may send Syrian refugees home gives Syrian believers hope that those who came to faith in nearby countries will return and strengthen local churches.
MAJOR RELIGIONS: 90 percent of Syrians are Sunni Muslims. Syrian Christians are a significant minority, but many have taken refuge in neighboring countries because of the war.
PERSECUTOR: Islamist groups seek to drive Christians out of Syria, and the government wants to control churches. Specific cases of persecution are not common, but there is a general hostility toward Christians. The ongoing civil war makes it difficult to determine whether Christians are being targeted for territorial reasons or for reasons related to their faith.
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A CHRISTIAN IN SYRIA: Syria was once known for its religious tolerance, relative to most nations in the Middle East. However, Christians there now face the same problems Christians experience throughout the Middle East: the loss of jobs, homes, social standing and family relationships. Those born into Christian families are allowed to worship in church buildings as long as they do not evangelize, but Christians who evangelize face opposition from both extremists and the government. Churches struggle to meet the needs of the overwhelming number of displaced people. Still, some Christians have chosen to stay in the country to serve others, despite the danger and harsh conditions.
ACCESS TO BIBLES: A variety of Bibles in multiple formats are available through Bible societies and book stores. However, access and distribution has become difficult and dangerous in many areas.
VOM WORK: VOM helps meet displaced Christians’ basic needs. We also provide training seminars for evangelical pastors who continue to serve inside the country.