|(Photos courtesy Flickr/FreedomHouse)|
According to the pastor, about 40% of the members of his church have left the country since the conflict in Syria started over two years ago. Imagine: four of every ten members of your church leaving in such a short period. That means a major loss for every congregation. And that is the reality churches in Syria now face as this example from Damascus shows.
People who have the financial means, and especially those who have contacts abroad, are leaving the country. Pastor Edward knows that in his church, some members still are waiting for the opportunity to leave Syria, too. "They are still trying to find a place to go." However, all the people that left didn't leave the church services empty. "No, we see new people coming to church. Many of the families that we visit and help with a monthly food supply, for example, come to our services now."
Although there is no fighting going on in the central area of Damascus, in several suburbs fighting is a daily reality. No one can escape from the distant sound of explosions and shooting. "It seems that there is no end in sight. Christians are like all other people: concerned for their safety and the future of their children."
In a way, life goes on for many people in the capital. People who work in the public sector still go to work. "But their income is worth less and less as the Syrian pound lost 75% of its value, which caused huge inflation. After over two years of civil war, most people are suffering economically and are traumatized emotionally."
The pastor also mentions "a brighter side" in the gloom. "Church people are closer to the Lord and to each other."