‘There is a Church in Syria’. This is how Barnabas Fund (BF) made its appeal to Christians to help brothers and sisters in this beleaguered country.
Speaking as reports from Syria revealed desperate humanitarian needs, BF said that aid agencies are struggling to deal with an ever-growing number of refugees fleeing into neighbouring countries, as well as a large number of internally displaced people trying to get away from the fighting between government and opposition forces.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reported on 20 July that roughly 120,000 Syrian refugees have now registered with it since the fighting started 17 months ago and expects the total to reach 200,000-250,000 in the foreseeable future.
Sadly, the UNHCR said an average of 700 people a day are crossing the borders into Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey, many of whom are women and children who have nothing with them except the clothes they are wearing.
One of the aid organisations active on the ground told BF that up to 1.5 million Syrians have been forced to migrate within the country.
A statement from BF said, ‘As Syria implodes into chaos and civil war, its large but endangered Christian minority has been caught up in the growing crisis of displacement and poverty.
‘Tens of thousands of Christians have been driven from their cities by threats and violence. The opposition forces and the militant groups that support them are largely hostile to Christians, believing them to be supporters of the government.
‘An Islamist takeover is likely to generate further violence against Christians. Some believe that they have no alternative but to leave the country to avoid persecution or even death’.
Meanwhile, William Dalrymple, writing for The Times, said, ‘If a hard-line Salafist regime replaces the secular regime in Syria, the final death of Christianity in its Middle Eastern homelands seems increasingly possible within our lifetime’.