In Jesus’ day the “news about him spread all over Syria” (Matthew 4:24) and large crowds came to him and followed him. Some of the oldest churches in Christendom are found in Syria and are evidence of the extent of Jesus’ impact in the region. Today, the Good News of the Kingdom is not all over Syria. The vast majority of the Syrian people (more than 90% Muslim) do not know Jesus. What happened?
Diversity in Syria
The people of Syria are a diverse people. Just as the carpets in the ancient market are full of different colours, textures and designs – each with a story behind the pattern, Syria has many different people groups, each one with its own distinct characteristics and history known by God.
Islam has a long history in Syria, with Damascus as a former capital of the Umayyad caliphs (AD 661-750) bordering with the Byzantine Empire. The Christians of that time were weakened in their faith and gave in to the constant mistreatment and temptation.
Christians in Syria
Praise God for the precious few believers who live in Syria! Most are from a culturally Christian background, from peoples who kept their faith, even though greatly weakened. They have a passion for Jesus but are strongly restricted in proclaiming their faith by the Muslim majority. They face historical and cultural barriers and possible imprisonment for evangelistic efforts. The very few Muslims who have believed in the Messiah face persecution from family and government and the difficulties of isolation.
One predominately Muslim people group is responding to Jesus. The Kurds have reached an identity crisis. After a long history of persecution by their Muslim neighbours, they have been given freedom by the “Christian” West. Several are believing in Christ and even meeting in their own Kurdish fellowships.
Syria has had some very hard years of oppression and corruption under the reign of dictator Hafez Alasad. However, his son, Bashaar, has a different style. He is opening up the country inside and outside, both economically and politically. But, he is not alone in the government and it is not easy to turn a big ship. The scars of oppression are very noticeable in the people, who are often suspicious and fearful.
Syrians love to make visitors feel welcome. Hospitality and respect for guests is one of their highest priorities. They are a friendly and hard working people. May the love of Christ touch this people to make them beautiful as they should be.
Prayer Starters for Syria
- Please pray that the Good News of Jesus would again be heard all over Syria.
- Pray that Muslims may come to faith and start meeting and encouraging each other.
- Praise the Lord that Muslim Kurds are turning to Jesus. May God continue to draw more Kurds to himself and deepen their faith.
- Pray that God would raise up local evangelists from Christian and Muslim backgrounds to reach out.
- Pray for the government, that the Party and Islamic authorities would reign so that believers may live peaceful and quiet lives (1 Tim 2:1-3).
Video: Sights and Sounds of Syria (1:46)