March 15, 2017
By Matt Morrison
“If we don’t leave with our families soon, I’m not sure we’ll ever get out alive.”
Farid’s words broke the pregnant silence that night between the ten underground church leaders in that small Damascus basement.
In Tom Doyle’s 2015 book, Killing Christians, he writes of Farid’s true story, a journey that began that fateful night.
It was 2011 and Syria was quickly descending into chaos. The Arab Spring had renewed the people’s thirst for freedom across the country and the government was striking back. Clashes between rebels and government forces were escalating and random civilians were finding themselves caught in the crosshairs.
Being a Christian in Syria had always been a dangerous endeavor. The impending civil war only made it worse. Between the rise of ISIS, the momentum of the Free Syrian Army, and the fierce resistance from Bashar al Assad’s forces, violence was constantly in the air.
As Farid stood before the pastors in a nondescript basement in an undisclosed location, he challenged them with a choice. With their once vibrant city descending into war, there was only so much time to get out. Once the battle lines were drawn, it would be difficult to escape the impending persecution or the increasing threat of bombings.
Farid compared their situation to that of King Hezekiah, who had to choose whether to fight against the Assyrian army closing in on Jerusalem or stay put. As he waited, prayed, and sought the Lord, an angel wiped out their army and stopped the attack.
Do we stay in Syria or go? For one week, let us cease all activities except the greatest one of all – prayer. After that, if God calls you and your family to leave, begin that journey as fast as you can. If He calls you to stay, meet back here in one week from tonight at this same time.
He added that there was no pressure to stay or go. God’s plan could be different for each family. But the time to decide was upon them.
“Whether we stay or go, we take Jesus’ message of love and forgiveness with us.”
Over the next week, the situation in Damascus only deteriorated. Gun battles broke out in the streets and there was already damage to the city’s infrastructure. The life they had always known was already gone.
As Farid made his way to the meeting place, he encountered one obstacle after another, forcing him to be 30 minutes late. He feared he’d arrive to an empty room. Though he truly believed God could call the men in either decision, he had hoped at least some would choose to stay behind.
As he opened the door to the basement, he found not only the ten original men, but fifteen more with them. They decided to stay and were already actively spreading the Gospel, despite the very real and present danger.
They’re dedication was so great that those present that night pooled their money to buy a plot of land, the graveyard they all planned to be buried in together once they were martyred.
It’s believers like these who are spreading the story of Jesus in the most dangerous and influential parts of the world. They count the cost, remember what Jesus has done for them, and stand in for the battle. They consider all the sacrifice worth it. They’re willing to lose anything and many of them already have.
Farid and his fellow believers rejoice every week the graveyard remains empty, fully prepared for the day it’s not.
Want to read more stories like Farid’s? Pre-order Tom Doyle’s latest book, Standing in the Fire: Courageous Christians Living in Frightening Times. Learn more about these incredible believers who have embraced their identity as victors in Christ.