By Sophie Nasrallah
10 Years Since the Start of the Syrian Civil War
It is hard to believe that the ongoing Syrian civil war started 10 years ago. This is an anniversary we all wish we did not have to commemorate. As the situation for families affected by the war keeps on getting darker, God’s light keeps on shining ever brighter through the relief ministry of our partner churches.
The Darkness Keeps on Spreading
The Syrian civil war killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions of families whether internally or to neighboring countries. Most of them are still unable to go back to their homes and villages, and their situation is not getting any better.
In Lebanon, approximately one in four people is a Syrian refugee. Although they have always lived in precarious conditions, the compounding crises Lebanon is going through are impacting them in the worst way possible. The collapse of the Lebanese economy and banking system, hyperinflation coupled with mass unemployment and the COVID-19 pandemic have all left the country on its knees. In just one year, the percentage of Syrian refugee households living in extreme poverty in Lebanon jumped from 55% to 90%! With more and more Lebanese families falling into poverty too, tensions are on the rise between the refugees and their host communities.
Alongside the consequences of international sanctions on Syria (Caesar Act), the financial and banking crises in Lebanon had a ripple effect throughout Syria and sent the Syrian pound plummeting to new lows. This shows the extent to which Syria’s financial system had become dependent on Lebanese Banks. Furthermore, the COVID pandemic led to a shortage of wheat as Russia had limited its exports. All of these events have brought, in the last year alone, an additional 4.5 million people into food insecurity, making a total of 12.4 million Syrians food insecure. That is nearly 60% of the population! One of our church partners in northwest Syria sums it up quite tragically: “Before, there were bombings everywhere, but we could put food on the table. Now, it is somehow safer, but people are starving.” Bread lines could be seen in several Syrian cities where people had to wait many hours before getting their daily portion of bread.
God’s Light Keeps on Shining
Our local church partners, compelled by compassion and deep conviction, have selflessly and tirelessly responded to the needs of vulnerable families affected by the war. At a time when the overwhelming needs around them could easily have discouraged them, their vision and faith keep them going, along with the hope they have that God does not waiver no matter the circumstances.
David is in charge of the relief ministry of his church in Lebanon. He recently told us: “If God weren’t with us, we would be utterly devastated. But we have a living hope in God and that is what encourages us and lifts our spirits. We continue our ministry because we know God is on our side and He is blessing our work. We believe He has a purpose in bringing all these people to our door.”
Through the steady and holistic support of our church partners to vulnerable families around them, God’s light keeps on shining brightly and drawing more and more people to Him, from all backgrounds.
Father Nicolas, with whom we work in southwest Syria, confirms: “The relief ministry enhanced the image of the church. It helped us become a lighthouse in our area and strengthened our witness. In very dark circumstances, we pray and work to remain messengers of hope. Sometimes we feel that simply visiting the families is enough to give them some form of hope. Our presence by itself comforts them.”
The Darkness Will Not Overcome Us
Despite the many challenges, we are convinced that no amount of darkness will ever be able to overcome God’s light. On the contrary, just as you can best see the stars when it is fully dark, we trust that God’s light can only shine brighter and brighter as the darkness continues to spread.
Please pray for our church partners, that they would remain firmly grounded in God and filled with the hope, peace, and joy that can only be found in Him. Please pray for the situation in both Syria and Lebanon to improve and for God to provide for the Syrian people’s every need as they suffer and hurt.
“We have no idea what tomorrow holds and chances are it will keep on getting worse and worse, but we always hope and pray for the best. Historically, no war has continued forever. We are hopeful that our civil war will stop at some point, hopefully soon, so we can start actively rebuilding our country. Until then and as long as we are able to hold on to what we have in God, we will be OK. We need to always keep on smiling. God is good.”
-Father Nicolas, partner in south-west Syria
 In just one year, there was a 78% drop in the value of the Syrian currency and a 236% increase in average price of food (as of December 2020)