The conflict in Syria is now approaching its sixth year. Labelled the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II, the war began with the peaceful protests of the Arab Spring in early 2011 but spiralled as Islamist groups began to seize swathes of the country. Syrian Christians are suffering in this terrible war, but they are also being hunted out, kidnapped and killed by Islamist militants simply because of their faith. The rise of Islamic State (IS in 2014 saw renewed savagery. Militants have attacked churches, removing crosses and replacing them with the black flag of IS.
In February 2015, 253 Syrian Christians were kidnapped from villages along the Khabur river. Any who tried to resist capture were killed. Some of the hostages, mainly the elderly, have been released in small groups. But in a video released in October 2015, armed militants shot three of the hostages in the back of the head andjihadists threatened to execute the rest of the Christians still being held. A total of 145 of the Christians captured in the Khabur river raids have now been released, but IS continues to hold 105. In another incident, around 250 Christians were kidnapped last August as Islamic State captured the town of Qaryatain and hunted out its Christian population. A group of 15 were released in September after signing a dhimma contract that forces them to live with second-class status, and a group of 50 were freed in October.
At least 7.6 million Syrians are internally displaced and a further 4 million have fled the country since the conflict began. Unusually for a Muslim-majority country, Christians enjoyed respect and equality before the war began, when they made up 10% of the population. Now their numbers are dwindling rapidly and over halfa million have already fled the country, many from Aleppo which has been particularly hard-hit.
Lift up in prayer our suffering brothers and sisters in Syria. Ask the Lord to shield them from the dangers of living in a war zone and to hide them from Islamic State militants. Pray for the safe release of all those being held hostage. Pray too for those who have been displaced from their homes, that the Lord will comfort them in their loss and be their Shepherd to guide them to safety. Ask the Lord to bring an end to the violence against so many innocent civilians who are suffering in this country.