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(Jim Denison Forum) Syria continues to make headlines as its civil war escalates. The United Nations estimated in mid-February that 70,000 people had been killed in this conflict, now in its third year. Last Friday and Saturday, strikes attributed to Israel reportedly targeted a research center near Damascus involved in creating chemical weapons, as well as an airport and Iranian-made ground-to-ground missiles bound for Hezbollah.
In the midst of this physical war, Syrian Christians are facing something much darker—a spiritual war. Christians in Syria have historically experienced a higher degree of freedom than in most other Middle Eastern countries. Many of them have refused to denounce the Assad regime, fearing that extremists would replace the government and severely persecute religious minorities. As a result, many of the rebels consider Christians to be loyal to Assad. In addition, Christians populate a region of Syria that is strategic to the war. Whoever controls their land can split the nation in two and control the conflict. Here's the bottom line: Believers in Syria now face the possibility of population transfers, ethnic cleansing, and genocide. There are three ways we can help them. First, we can join them tomorrow in a special day of prayer and fasting. Coordinators of "The Day of Prayer for Syria" have issued this letter: "On Saturday, May 11, Christians from different denominations . . . are joining together in prayer and fasting to plead before the Lord for His mercy on Syria and an end to the violence. Due to the dangers of traveling in combat zones, Christians will be limited to local meetings planned all across Syria during this day. These groups will be meeting in homes, arenas and churches. Christians across Syria have asked that you join them in prayer on May 11. Thank you for standing in the gap on behalf of the Syrian people and reflecting the love of Christ. Second, we can make time during Sunday worship services to pray for our persecuted sisters and brothers in Syria. (For specific prayer requests, go here.) And third, we can join "8thirty8," a global prayer initiative for the persecuted church. My dear friends Tom and JoAnn Doyle, missionaries with e3 Partners in the Middle East, have created this network. Those of us who have joined them set an alarm each day for 8:38 PM as a reminder to pray for believers in prison, persecution, and danger. You can like their Facebook page for updates and RSVP with your commitment to the Day of Prayer for Syria. When Peter was imprisoned by Herod, "the church was earnestly praying to God for him" (Acts 12:5). As a result, he was miraculously released and continued his global ministry. Let's intercede together for those in our faith family who need a similar miracle from God today.
Syria (MNN) ― It's easy to lose sight of just how bad Syria's refugee crisis has gotten after 14 months of flow into Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan. e3 Partners, however, has far from forgotten.
"We think it's one of the largest humanitarian disasters in the Middle East in probably the last ten years," says e3's Tom Doyle.
It's been extremely difficult to keep track of any numbers during the severe unrest in Syria. The number of deaths since the unrest began range anywhere from 10,000 persons to 20,000. No one seems quite sure how many people have been imprisoned or how many are missing. And of course, it's incredibly hard to keep track of how many people are desperately fleeing the war-torn nation.
e3 has an estimate though: "We think it's probably 300,000-plus refugees in the surrounding countries right now." The exodus is likely to keep up with the fighting.
"The civil war continues. It really does not show any signs of letting up," says Doyle. "We think there's some nations behind Syria now that's given them strength to keep this going. So our hearts go out to people in need, no matter what the situation is, no matter the government."
The ministry is not just saying that. Their concern is personal, and it came recently in the form of a desperate call from Jordan.
"We got a plea for help from a Middle East leader saying, ‘Would you be able to help us? We are overwhelmed with the need: the food, the shelter, the clothing that's needed.'" Doyle says many Christian groups in Jordan are severely overwhelmed as they try to take on some of the work the government cannot tend to.
"[Refugees] come into Jordan; it's safer there. So the Jordanian government is doing what it can, but the needs are pretty overwhelming. It's not a large country -- maybe 5 million -- but they've had over 100,000 refugees. So Christian groups are actively reaching out to them," Doyle explains.
And now e3 is reaching out to those Christian groups. Every dollar they raise to help believers in Syria goes directly for those groups to provide clothing, food, shelter, water and other basic necessities. Doyle says clothes are often the first need to tend to as many Syrians fled with nothing but the shirts on their backs.
The response is vital for several reasons. Basic needs are provided for to be sure. But care under Christians also has a protective element to it. Refugees who flee Syria without finding a place to help them could easily get sent back to Syria. Doyle says a potential change in government could completely alter the fate of many people.
As e3's partner groups reach out, their most important gift is the Gospel. Believers have to be careful, but when the time is right, they are sharing the message of Jesus Christ with refugees. Doyle says many refugees are simultaneously having dreams about Jesus and entrusting their lives to Him.
Even back in Syria, the Lord is at work. "In the midst of total neighborhoods being destroyed and people being displaced, there are some amazing stories of Jesus coming to the rescue and reaching out to people," says Doyle.
Despite the largest humanitarian crisis in a decade, the One True God is moving. And e3 wants to be a part of it.
You can help e3 send aid and the hopeful Christ message to thousands. Click here to give and to find out how you can get a copy of Doyle's book Desperation to guide your prayer. Keep praying.
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