The Syrian civil war killed hundreds of thousands and forcibly displaced millions of families both internally and to neighboring countries. Most of them have not been able to return to their destroyed homes and villages. Alongside the consequences of international sanctions on Syria, the economic crisis in Lebanon had a ripple effect throughout Syria and sent the Syrian pound to new lows. When the earthquake hit, about 15.3 million people in Syria (70% of the population) were already in need of humanitarian assistance. One of our church partners in northern Syria sums it up quite tragically:
“Earlier in the war, there were bombings everywhere, but we could put food on the table. Before the earthquakes, it was somehow safer, but people were already starving. These earthquakes are a huge catastrophe, and the last thing we needed! We just ask for God’s mercy!”
No matter how devastated they were when each earthquake happened, our partners in Syria quickly opened the doors of their churches to serve people who sought refuge there.
Thanks to rapid and generous donations, we have already facilitated the delivery of 7,500 blankets, 6,000 pullovers, 2,600 winter jackets, 8,500 food rations, 8,500 hygiene kits, and 7,000 bags of diapers to over 20 churches in the Aleppo, Latakia, Tartous, Hama, and Homs governorates.
The churches distributed these items to thousands of families now residing in shelters, schools, or other community shelters, bringing them some comfort and putting smiles back on the faces of children.
Because the earthquakes happened in the context of a pre-existing humanitarian crisis, we anticipate it will have long-lasting repercussions on affected families and the entire country. It will likely cause a new wave of displacement, within Syria and possibly to neighboring countries, and exacerbate existing vulnerabilities for months or even years to come.
Our partner churches in Syria, who have already been providing extensive relief and development assistance in their communities for many years, will face even more challenges, stress, and emotional burdens as they serve earthquake-affected families. They know that there is only one place they can find the strength they need to carry on: in the God they serve and believe in. A reverend we work with in Aleppo shared this beautiful testimony:
“After the initial shock of the earthquakes, we were calling upon God, knowing that only He could relieve us from our weariness and our anguish. Seven days later, we truly experienced that the power of the Church comes from God himself. Our elders, our young people, our group of women, all who took part in serving the people were full of power from the Holy Spirit which gave them the ability and the will to go and serve all the people, even those who are different from them in beliefs and ethnicities.”
He adds that in the middle of the crisis, he had a wonderful taste of the unity of God’s Church:
“All denominations experienced the anguish of our people together, and all denominations joined hands in responding to the needs. We discovered that the Church was never Evangelical, Orthodox, or Catholic. The Church of Christ is the Church that cares about human beings. The unity of the Church was also demonstrated by all the support we received from our brothers and sisters everywhere in the world. People were so quick to respond and their solidarity is really making a difference in our lives. I thank God for everyone who helped!”
Please pray for our Syrian partners churches in these troubling times. May God renew their strength each day! May they continue to offer a glimmer of hope amid an increasingly desperate situation, as they have already been doing for the past 12 years of civil war.