Open Doors has been reporting on partners assessing the needs of believers and others in Syria and Turkey following the recent massive earthquake.
What’s the situation in Syria?
In Aleppo and Latakia, people are searching for a safe place to stay for the night. Churches have opened their doors and people are now starting to find places to sleep. These people are also receiving food, supplied by local partners.
In Latakia, three churches have offered shelter to victims so far. In one church alone there are nearly 1,000 people. In Aleppo, 7,000 people across different churches are being cared for with shelter, food, water, and other basic needs. Open Doors partners are supporting these churches in their response to the crisis (see right).
“I saw destruction everywhere,” says Leyla (name changed), an Open Doors local staff member who arrived in Aleppo this week. “I saw people gathered in the streets, next to their new ‘home’—their car, where they are now sleeping.”
While such sights are horrifying, in Syria they are all too familiar. Christians in northern Syria have suffered crisis after crisis for more than a decade. Many believers are still trying to rebuild after the brutal reign of the Islamic State group and the recent conflict with Turkish forces. The earthquake is just the latest tragedy to impact them.
“Aleppo was already devastated by the decade-long [Syrian civil] war,” Leyla says. “It was already unsafe for residents to be staying in some buildings, so when the earthquake hit, lots of buildings crumbled in minutes.”
Some believers wonder why something like this is happening yet again. They’ve been through so much over the last 15 years.
God’s hand is still visible in Syria
And yet, God’s hand is still visible to His people in Syria. Leyla told a story of a woman who lives on the fifth floor of a building with her son. Their building collapsed, but both the woman and her son miraculously survived. The son, who didn’t believe in God, yelled “thanks be to God” and decided to begin following Jesus.
Leyla visited three churches in Aleppo and saw the earthquake damage first-hand—what hadn’t been destroyed by years of war was suffering due to the impact of the earthquake. Even the churches have visible cracks in some cases. And the cold winter creates an additional challenge. “In Aleppo, the temperature drops below [freezing] at night,” Leyla says.
“[Though] our partner church leaders are affected themselves, they are providing food distribution and shelter for the homeless,” Leyla says.
The church in Syria has been through more than a decade of challenges, and the earthquakes present a new and horrible reality. But God’s people are not about to give up on serving their community and being a light for Jesus amid the darkness. “The Centres of Hope are opening their doors for everyone,” Leyla says. The wider community is receiving vital support here, and many are sleeping in the church hall at night.
What’s the situation in Turkey?
In Turkey, local partners are working with Iranian Christian refugees who have been affected by the earthquakes. We know of one Turkish Christian family in Adana that have lost a child and their house. The local church there was able to give them food and spend time with them. Please pray for them as they grieve.
The current need here is not for shelter, but for heaters, blankets and sleeping bags; these are what our partners and local churches are working towards providing. Please pray for peace – there is a lot of fear due to the continuing aftershocks, and many people are frightened and panicked.
Find out more at https://opendoorsuk.org/news/latest-news/earthquakes-response/