BACKGROUND: Syria has endured civil war since 2011. Rebel groups control large portions of the country, and an estimated 4.1 million Syrians have left since 2011. In addition, about 6.5 million Syrians are displaced within Syria.
MAJOR RELIGIONS: Syria is majority Sunni Muslim with a 10 percent Christian population.
PERSECUTOR: Islamist groups seek to drive Christians out of Syria, and the government wants to control churches. Specific cases of persecution are not common, but there is a general hostility toward Christians. The ongoing civil war makes it difficult to determine whether Christians are being targeted for territorial reasons or for reasons related to their faith.
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A CHRISTIAN IN SYRIA: Syria was once known for its religious tolerance, relative to most nations in the Middle East. However, Christians there now face the same problems Christians experience throughout the Middle East: the loss of jobs, homes, social standing and family relationships. Those born into Christian families are allowed to worship in church buildings as long as they do not evangelize, but Christians who evangelize face opposition from both extremists and the government. Churches struggle to meet the needs of the overwhelming number of displaced people. Still, some Christians have chosen to stay in the country to serve others, despite the danger and harsh conditions.
ACCESS TO BIBLES: A variety of Bibles in multiple formats are available through Bible societies and book stores. However, access and distribution has become difficult and dangerous in many areas.
VOM WORK: VOM helps meet displaced Christians’ basic needs. We also provide retreats and training seminars for evangelical pastors who remain in the country. In addition, we provide financial support to Christian workers and pastors who would otherwise have to close their churches.