|Syrian Refugee (Photo courtesy Open Doors)|
Syria (ODM) ― More than 1.3 million Syrians have fled the war-torn country, according to the latest figures from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Syria is over 2 million.
People that are staying in their embattled cities are in need of assistance. Open Doors is helping more than 3000 families spread all over Syria in partnership with local churches. The Alliance Church in Damascus is one of them.
Open Doors recently spoke with Alliance Church pastor Edward Awabdeh. "The fighting gets closer and closer to where the church is located," he says. "Many people see no light at the end of the tunnel. Things are getting worse, with more fighting and bloodshed."
Since April 2012, Open Doors has been supporting many Christian families working with Pastor Awabdeh's church. Open Doors is helping facilitate food supplies, medical assistance, and sometimes even financial support for paying the rent of apartments for temporary shelter for the homeless.
Refugees that come to Damascus often arrive with only the clothes they can carry. There is no work and no income for them. Many families rent an apartment together with one or two other families to share the costs.
The families that flee to Damascus are visited by church team members. The families are registered with the church, and the visiting team makes an assessment of their situation. Then material for the relief packages has to be bought.
"It is risky, yes," says Awabdeh. "When you need to drive through the city, you run a high risk. Roads are closed. Twenty-four hours a day there is shooting and shelling."
It has been difficult to get the materials, the pastor explains. "Sometimes it takes two weeks to have enough of a product. Sometimes we do this in unconventional ways. For example, instead of buying the oil in small bottles, we buy it in gallons and we fill bottles with oil to distribute. For many products we have to go to the outskirts of the city, and that is very risky. Sometimes we make agreements that we pay something extra to have people bring the products, and then it is their risk."
But ministry goes on. Last week the church opened a new distribution center, and now the ministry is able to help hundreds more families.
"We thank the Lord for all the people that are praying for us. We feel the effect of that. We feel supported by that, personally and on the ministry level," says Awabdeh. "This is the time for the church to help; time to support the refugees. Who else can give hope and spread peace than the Lord?
"We see how the Gospel, the message of Christ, fits in the suffering. Love touches the deepest wounds. It is a tool to open hearts....open hearts for the Gospel."
Last month Open Doors launched a campaign called "Displaced Peoples Project." It is targeting countries such as Egypt, South Sudan, Nigeria, Mali, Laos, and Iraq because displacement of Christians is a worldwide problem. Thousands of Christians are being forced to leave their original family homes and villages due to persecution and ravages of war.
"The focus of this project is to embrace uprooted believers, not only in Syria, but also around the world," says Open Doors USA spokesman Jerry Dykstra. "Thousands of Christians are being forced from their homes, churches, schools, and places of work. They find themselves completely destitute and face an uncertain future.