Syria

World Watch Ranking: 15

How many Christians are there in Syria?

Syria has about 638,000 Christians, about 3.3 per cent of a population of 19.5 million. The number of Christians in the country has decreased in the past decade, as many have fled conflict and persecution.  

What does persecution look like in Syria?

Even though the public threat of ISIS has largely subsided, Christians in Syria still grapple with daily persecution that may become violent. In areas where Islamic extremist groups are active, leaders of historical church communities may be targeted simply because they are more visible. But leaders of other Christian groups are also vulnerable because they may be more active in evangelism.

Church buildings are completely destroyed in many parts of Syria where Islamic extremists had control (or continue to maintain control). Where extremists control territory, any public expression of faith is dangerous. Additionally, every Christian in Syria lives with the constant realization that Islamic extremists have not necessarily left Syria—they've just retreated into the shadows, and they may return to public life again in the future.

As the Christian population of Syria has diminished due to the civil war, more and more Syrian Christians come from a Muslim background. This makes them additional targets as the government wants to ensure there is no social upheaval caused by religious conversion. Families and communities may reject, punish or even attack Christians who convert from Islam.  

Who is most vulnerable to persecution?

In the parts of Syria where Islamic extremists maintain control, Christians remain under significant pressure. ISIS has attacked Christian targets in the last several years, and tensions are high. Places where Turkey has supplied fighters and military support after its invasion in late 2019 are also dangerous for Christians. And finally, Christians who leave Islam to follow Jesus are at risk throughout Syria.  

Meet "Anwar"

A Christian in Syria who left his family's Muslim faith despite his father's status as a religious leader

“Jesus is everything to me. When I had no one, He was with me, my brother, my companion, my best friend. I talk to Him all the time, I rely on Him, Jesus truly saved my life. When I wanted to kill myself, He pulled me back and gave me hope for the future. When things go wrong, I escape to Jesus. I know He has a good plan for my life."

Anwar

What has changed compared to last year?

Violence against Christians decreased in Syria, which is news worth celebrating. And yet, the country remains high on the World Watch List—the pressure on all Christians is extreme, and church leaders are targeted for abuse and persecution. Christians who leave Islam continue to bear a great burden placed on them by government, society and their own families.  

What does Open Doors do to help Christians in Syria?

Open Doors works with the local church in Syria through strengthening its leadership and helping the Syrian church be a beacon of hope. Open Doors supports literature distribution, biblical discipleship and training, trauma counselling and the establishment of community centres (Centres of Hope) that provide services to Syrian Christians and their neighbors.

How can you pray for Syria?

  • Pray for Syria in the aftermath of a decade long civil war. Pray that God will bring peace to the country and soften the hearts of those in power to provide for the most vulnerable members of Syrian society.
  • Pray for Christians in Syria, particularly church leaders and converts from Islam. Pray that God would protect them from violence and raise their spirits when daily life seems impossible.
  • Ask God to strengthen the churches that Open Doors works with in Syria. Ask Him to bless our leadership and discipleship training. Pray that God would increase the ministry of our Centres of Hope, that they would be beacons of God's peace for Christians so devastated by war and Islamic extremism.
a prayer for Syria

Almighty God, we ask that You look with compassion upon your people in Syria. They have endured so much in the last 10 years, and they continue to live in a place where the fact that they follow You puts them in danger and pain. Please comfort them. Deliver them from their sorrows. Bring to mind the joy and peace of Your Son, Jesus, that they may bear the weight of persecution well. Strengthen their hearts, Lord. All this we ask for the sake of Your son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


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Map thumbnail
Persecution Level

Very High


Persecution Type
  • Dictatorial paranoia
  • Islamic oppression
  • Clan oppression
  • Organized corruption and crime
  • Christian denominational protectionism
Population of Christians
638,000 (3.3%)

Main Religion
Islam

Government
Republic

Leader
President Bashar al-Assad