Lebanese and Syrian Christian Maronites pray for peace in Syria, in Harisa, Jounieh. (Reuters/Hasan Shaaban)
In this exclusive interview with Charisma News, Jane (not her real name), a Syrian Christian, gave us a firsthand account of what it's like to be a Christian in the war-torn country during this dangerous and uncertain time.
Charisma News: This is a classic case of where the media has trumped up the story in Damascus where 1,100 people were gassed on Wednesday, Aug. 21.
Jane: Actually, we read everything, and we said to our people here that most of the media lie about what happened. We know there’s a lot of kidnapping of people. We know a guy who’s 17 years old who was kidnapped, and he said there were hundreds of bodies, and a lot of children and women were kidnapped. Many times they burn them, take pictures and show villagers, and everyone’s talking about this. That may have happened, but we don’t know the real truth. Yesterday the UN, in a closed meeting, said, “We don’t have any information that the Assad soldiers did that. And we already have a group from the UN inside Syria, and they don’t find any proof, so we remain until there is proof toward this situation.” Both sides may use chemicals, and we are sure the rebels are using the chemicals because we are there.
Charisma News: What do you see God doing in spite of all the persecution and what’s being reported?
Jane: We are now experiencing that this is the best spiritual time for Syria and other countries, like Egypt, because as much as their suffering is great, they are growing. We experience how refugees run away from their places because of the bombing from the government. They came to Damascus and to the churches, and they came to find the truth of the real God.
Many of the Muslim families came to our church, and now our church has 2,000 families of refugees. They told us, “We don’t know if this is the real Islam.” We said, “Yes, this is Islam. This is what they teach in Quran.” They said, “We don’t want to follow Muhammad anymore. We don’t want Islam. We want to know the real God.” So we give them New Testaments, and we follow up with them, have meetings, preach the gospel, and then we give them food. Thank God, we saw how He is moving among those families that before we couldn’t reach because they don’t even know there are Christians in this country. They are covered; it’s very hard. So we thank God, because everything happens because of His goodness.
We saw that this war is not from God because of how much the terrorists came and tried to strip the Christians, telling them to go out from the country—“This is our country. It’s our country.” At the same time, we are experiencing how much evil is active now because there is a big change on the other side, where we have a lot of opportunities to show Jesus Christ. And we have one prayer a day for the country for six months, inviting people from any denomination—Muslim denominations and Christian denominations—and we pray with them for the country. And when we pray, we pray for Sunni and Shia and Christians and Jews and enemy religions. We pray for all denominations, and we pray for all people. That prayer meeting, God opened from this prayer to make resolutions among Sunni and Shia.
We believe God is doing miracles because He promised us from 2004 that a big revival is coming. It wasn’t like we were expecting. We expected big places, a crowd of people would come to the place. But His way is opposite, not like our ways, because this is through the war. Thank God, at the same time, we believe that somebody is being saved. We are waiting and believe that God will change the situation for victor[y], and we are using the suffering time that believers get stronger and people come more. Even though we have a lot problems, a lot of suffering, a lot of hurting, we still, we can’t do anything but stand still.
Charisma News: How can we pray for the situation there?
Jane: American believers have to wake up and know that there are other members of the body who are suffering. It’s very important to have more information about what’s happening on the other side because suffering is caused by the people who are supported by your government, by your taxes and your money.
It’s very hard for us when we are walking on the street and there are a lot of mortars above our heads and around us. Thank God He protects the believers. But this is the life we are living now. We walk down the street, and we don’t know if we will come back to our home or not. Everyone is going from Syria, from Damascus and Aleppo. We are leaving our home, and we don’t know if we will come back. It’s a very hard life because every moment we are expecting death. We hear of tortures, kidnappings, 500 die, 700 die, 200 die. This is a big problem. My area now is very dangerous, but we’re still alive, thank God.
You have to pray for awakening of your government. Because one day those people who are supported by your government, they will kill your people. Believe me, this is their aim. This is their goal. We want you to pray for that, that the country will stop the killing, stop the Syrian forces, that terrorists will not be supported by the Turkish board or the Muslim board. It’s very hard for us when we heard how much people come against our country. It’s very, very dangerous for us.
Please pray that God will stop the terrorists and not let them enter any more. Already we have 600,000 terrorists—from Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt and many areas. We also want you to pray for the Turks because they are now trying to build a kingdom of God above Syria. This is the dream of the believers, except for Syria.
At the same time, we are expecting more and more people coming to Jesus Christ, and we want you to pray for distributing the New Testament. We have had good experiences with this. Many years ago, our church had a vision to have one New Testament for each Syrian—that’s 23 million. In our country, the government gave us permission, and we distributed more than 300,000 New Testaments. But during the war, we distributed 50,000 and 20,000 audio New Testaments and 3,000 children Bibles. This is a big aim, and we are already doing it in no time. Thank God He is using this ministry, and we have many, many experiences about how God is using this ministry and people being blessed by the New Testament.
We want you to pray also for the children, for the situation, the economic situation. People are very down. People don’t work now. Prior to the situation, if someone has any problem, they can’t go to the police station because the police station is controlled by the terrorists, and we can’t have any solutions from the government. We need real protection and for God to stop this war.
Charisma News: Like you say, the reality of death is everywhere. I’m sure every time you step out, there is a supernatural protection on you.
Jane: We can be kidnapped any time because of our faith. We expect our daughters may be kidnapped. It’s not an easy life. We expect death. We are always prepared for death. I told my daughters that someone may come and kill us at our door.
The terrorists are full in this country. You will see some blood, you will have some pain, but He will open the heavens, and we will enjoy being with Jesus and angels, and He will say, “I forgive you, God loves you, Jesus loves you.” Many times He will use us and will glorify His name through our life, but we are in a very dangerous situation.
We need your prayers. We are blessed by this suffering, and we are aimed at winning. What’s happened in America? We are really worried. The Christians, the believers there, are sleeping. They don’t know anything about suffering in other countries. They are blind.
We are not supporting the regime, but we know that the regime with people is much better, and we can accept it, and we can live with them from Sunni. Before, we had a big freedom to worship God, and we could do huge events and no one would stop us—Muslim or other nations—because we had the freedom from our government. They gave us a church where we could do whatever wanted—even rent a big stadium. You can do what you want, and no one can stop you.
I had a female friend who was once asked, “Why do you get the New Testament in school?” She’s a believer from a Muslim background. The principal of the school is against her, but the government agreed that the people who are following what is written in the New Testament are the best and follow exactly what is written. “Go, and no one can stop you because of this book, we support printing it, and everyone who wants to read it can read it. Call me if someone stops you.” We have a lot of stories like this. In the end, people who produce the New Testament get protection from the Secret Police because it is very legal to distribute them in our country.
We had freedom before. Assad wasn’t against them and ministry, but his fault was he wanted to give freedom to all, and the last time, when we had freedom under Assad’s regime, it was like going crazy. In 10 years, they were building mosques in a crazy way and wondering why we have so many mosques. We are afraid one day they’ll say we don’t have freedom of religion. So Assad gives all people freedom. We are Christians. We keep the situation. While we are not weak, we begin to grow.