The war in Syria goes largely unreported now in the UK — in our online world people want fresh news to consume and so the situation in Syria is frequently passed over. But the conflict there is still ongoing, and it has been nine long years since Syria descended into a civil war, during which more than half a million people have been killed.
George Andrea, Director of the Bible Society in Syria, spoke candidly as he described the situation they face, as they now fight an additional war against coronavirus:
‘Our war is far from finished: There is no lockdown, but people all over suffer from COVID–19 and every week friends die from it. With few hospitals functioning properly, lack of medicine and lack of personnel, life is not going very well here. Hospitals cannot take care of all, and we are living in a country where not everybody can find a place to be quarantined and cared for.’
People are also suffering daily from financial means to make it through the day.
Hope in Suffering
Amazingly, amid this grave situation, the staff at the Bible Society in Syria have been able to continue to respond to opportunities. While the Bible Society’s book shop had to close for two weeks during March, the closure meant that staff had more time to prepare for their Big Easter distribution which will have reached an estimated 100,000 children by December!
Shipments of Scripture materials for adults, youth and children continue to go out across the country almost every day. Trauma Healing seminars, crucial at this unprecedented time, have re-started using Zoom, and Christmas Activity books and Bible calendars are ready to be published in Arabic and Armenian.
Reading the Bible and getting to know more about Jesus has kept hope alive for so many people in this war-torn part of the world. Many people, George says, are dealing with a lack of money and a lack of basic resources but so often it is the Bible that people are most grateful for, as displayed by this incredible piece of feedback received:
‘It’s always great to receive food parcels, but it’s different to receive something directly from God — His own Holy Word. How can we show you our gratitude!’
Another thankful recipient said, ‘Every member of our family was blessed by receiving a portion of the Word of God that was just exactly the right thing for him or her. But do we dare say that the most wonderful thing was when the person who came with these Scriptures prayed for each one of us? Then we knew that an angel of God had come to see us. Everything changed in our home at that moment. We had been visited and remembered by God Himself.’
The Bible Society’s commitment to making God’s Word available to all Syrians remains unchanged, but there are still requests for Bibles that remain unfulfilled and a hunger for Scripture that is not yet satisfied.
George concludes, ‘We are doing our best to create Scriptures that feel ‘Syrian’ and whatever else they must be to make people feel that Jesus is walking in our streets, whether in Aleppo, Damascus, Qameshli or in Hama.’
We can’t help but respond to this report with prayer: Please pray that the people of Syria will know and experience Jesus walking beside them at this very difficult time. Pray too for Bible Society staff in Syria as they work faithfully to bring a message of hope to a country that so desperately needs to hear it.