Date: December 19, 2016
Syria (MNN) — The evacuation of Aleppo resumed Monday after being suspended on Friday amid confusion over the ceasefire, and a demand by Syrian pro-government forces that the wounded in two Shi’ite villages also be brought out.
Aleppo, Syria (Photo courtesy of Open Doors USA)
Meanwhile, the embattled survivors are taking to their social media networks to sound their desperation. There are thousands who remain trapped in the city. Some are posting under “death bulletins”, others sharing video that starts with, “This may be my last video,” and still others tweeting, “I’m surprised I’m still alive.” Thousands of civilians remain trapped amid what has been described by a UN spokesman as a “complete meltdown of humanity.”
Open Doors USA spokeswoman Emily Fuentes explains, “Aleppo has kind of been a stronghold; as the largest city, it was the financial hub, and so it was one of the more significant ones to fall.” Rebel forces have held Aleppo for four years, but Syrian regime forces recently reclaimed that territory in a bloody push that included rumors of mass civilian executions.
What makes this failed truce different? There are some who see this as being about freedom. These are civilians who took a chance (during the Arab Spring uprising), and are now living in fear and preparing for their own deaths because the rebels failed. It strikes a chord with the patriot in all of us.
The next question is: what can we do? There is a remnant Church in Syria, even in places like Aleppo. Fuentes says, “Open Doors works with partners on the ground in Syria, to provide humanitarian aid in different cities — and then, for those, when they escape Aleppo, [they’re] just trying to strengthen the Church that remains so they can reach out to their neighbors.”
(Photo courtesy of Open Doors USA)
The scope of this disaster is mind-boggling. Some 13.5 million Syrians are in need of assistance following five years of civil war that have battered the country’s economy and infrastructure, according to a recent European Union report. Critical food, medicines, medical equipment and other items have trickled in when it’s safe. When it’s not, it falls to the body of Christ. This kind of support goes beyond the financial, although that remains a key piece of the puzzle. “Multiple denominations [are] coming together to host events of either passing out winter clothes or food, and then sharing the Gospel message and hearing some of their neighbors coming to Christ as a result.”
Here’s another reality: the overwhelming needs and horrific conditions challenge the physical and psychological endurance of Christian workers, whose only source of strength is to keep their focus on Christ.
Fuentes says, “They’ve had people ask, ‘Why are you doing this?’ and they said, ‘Because God compels me…Jesus compels me.’ It’s an opportunity for them to share their faith.”
People are finding Christ amid a conflict high in civilian casualties, even among the most unlikely, she adds. “We’ve seen and heard over the years amazing stories of even extremists coming to Christ because the Church is choosing to remain there.”
Repeated sieges have led to rising food prices, food and water shortages, and power outages. Even in this hellhole, but God… “God’s doing a work in spite of all that’s happening in this country. But, it is a country that desperately needs our prayers. It’s a country that will take a long time to recover and it’s so difficult for Christians who want to remain in their country and be a light. It’s getting closer and closer to being impossible, so they very much need our prayers.” There are some followers of Christ who are literally laying down their lives for the Gospel, sharing the love of Christ with their last breath.
As long as people remain, they are compelled by the love of Christ to share the message of eternal life, as stragglers hide in the ruins, waiting for any semblance of hope. Pray for an army of prayer warriors and financial supporters for these modern-day heroes of the faith.