The CEO of a persecution watchdog has opened up about the precarious future of northeastern Syria’s ancient Christian communities and urged believers in the West to fulfill their God-given mandate to take action and support those persecuted for their faith.
David Curry, head of the non-denominational ministry Open Doors, told The Christian Post that an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 Christians are in peril after Turkish forces launched an attack on the Kurdish-held territory of northeast Syria on October 9. The invasion began after President Donald Trump agreed to remove U.S. troops from the area at the request of Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“We’re in a real mode of crisis management here,” Curry said. “These Christians living in the northern part of Syria who have faced so much trouble over the last few years are now facing more crisis. The Christian community in Syria has been under massive pressure both from the civil war and being caught in the crossfire between ISIS and the Assad regime. Now, you have Turkey, which is using a localized terrorist group Al Nusra to clear out these communities. They don’t like Christians. They have a Muslim extremist agenda.”
“You have the possibility and great threat of losing these Christian communities, which will have a rippling effect,” he added.
Currently, Open Doors is on the ground helping Christians who have been injured in the crossfire and providing assistance to those who have lost their homes in the bombing. Additionally, the organization is working alongside pastors and church leaders to meet the immediate needs of Christians in the area.
“These people are displaced, they’ve lost homes. They will need help rebuilding their financial lives,” Curry said. “We’re standing with these folks in really practical ways. They’re in need of food, water, health kits, trauma care.
Long-term, Open Doors will help the affected communities rebuild by equipping them with educational support, vocational training, home repair, and trauma counseling.
On Thursday, Turkey declared a 120-hour ceasefire to allow Kurdish-led forces to evacuate the border zone. Yet, danger is still present for Christians in the region, said Curry, who warned that the magnitude of the humanitarian crisis is “still evolving” and “has yet to be seen.”
He told CP that the coming days and weeks are “critical” for the future of Syrian and Kurdish Christians in the northeast region.
“I know people get fatigued about all the things going on, but we’ve got to prioritize biblical teaching and values,” he stressed. “Jesus talks to each of us and says, 'Care for those in chains for my name'; those who are being punished for their Christian identity. He also says, ‘whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in my name, that person will not lose their reward.’”
“The whole idea,” he added, “is to prioritize helping our family just as Jesus commanded us to.”
Open Doors is seeking to mobilize Christians in the West to come alongside those suffering in Northern Syria. Curry urged Christians to first and foremost pray for those persecuted, and then find practical ways to support them.
“We’re talking about if they have churches, small groups, that want to buy water, medical care, food packs and other needs for vulnerable families. These are practical ways to help these people and give them crisis relief,” he said. "The need is urgent."
Those interested in helping to restore faith communities that have been targets of persecution in Northern Syria can visit Open Doors’ website.
Curry told CP that despite oppression, the Syrian Church has been “united,” adding: “What remains is strong, yet we need to protect them.”
“You have churches of all different denominations and theological opinion, but they’re all united by faith in Jesus,” he said. “They are coming together, working together, supporting each other, in the face of this persecution. These are Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox backgrounds working together because they are targeted for standing up for their faith in Jesus. To see their courage and desire to be salt and light — it’s a wonderful thing to observe. It gives me hope.”
The Church in the West, Curry said, would do well to learn from the resilience shown by Syrian Christians. He cited Isaiah 40:8: “The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the Word of our God stands forever.”
“Differences between us are not as great as the things we have in common, and I take hope in the idea that under persecution, we can pull together and forget the small differences between us,” he aid. “We have a lot in common if we’re following Jesus.”
To learn more about supporting Christians suffering in North Syria, visit the Open Doors website.