World Watch List Rank 11
World Watch List Score 82/100
Leader President Bashar al-Assad
Population 18.5 million I 744,000
Main Religion Islam
Government Authoritarian Presidential Republic
WWL Rank in 2019 11
Persecution Level Extreme Persecution

Even though Christians have been in Syria since the first century, Islam is now the main religion. Since the war broke out in 2011, Islamic extremist groups previously oppressed by the government have been able to operate more openly. The Islamic State, well known for their violent persecution of Christians, are one of many groups seeking to remove Christianity from Syria.

Many Christians in Syria have been targeted in violent attacks and forced to flee the country. In areas controlled by Islamic extremists, most historic churches have been either demolished or turned into Islamic centres. Public expressions of Christian faith are prohibited and church buildings or monasteries cannot be repaired.

Persecution is worst for those who leave Islam to become a Christian. They are pressured to renounce Jesus, as their new faith dishonours the family.


On 7 April 2014, Father Frans van der Lugt went through his usual morning routine; he prayed, he read his Bible, he reflected on the day ahead. The 75-year-old priest had been living in Syria for 40 years and had seen many changes in his time, but none so devastating as the civil war that began in 2011. He was living in the Old City in Homs, facing the threat of starvation and attack every day. 60,000 Christians had once lived in Homs; he chose to remain with the two dozen who were still there.

That afternoon, a lone masked gunman entered the monastery where Frans lived. The gunman marched the priest out to the garden and made him sit on a chair. Frans was killed by two shots to the head.

Since the start of the civil war, over a million Christians have left Syria. What began as a popular uprising with demands for increased political freedom and economic reform has increasingly developed into a jihad against the Syrian government. The self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) have claimed parts of Syria for their caliphate (Islamic state), and other radical groups such as Jabhat al-Nsura also attack those who don't conform to their brand of Islam.Many Christians are attacked, abducted or killed. Christians are often a target for kidnapping as they have a reputation for being wealthy and supporting the regime. One Muslim cleric, Salafi sheikh Yasir al-Ajlawni, declared on YouTube that 'raping Alawi or Christian women is not contrary to the precepts of Islam'.

The war rages on, but the church in Syria knows that the real battle is not against flesh and blood. "The world uses bombs and rockets. We have a weapon that gives life: the Word of God," says Daniel, a pastor from Damascus. "Many thousands of families found their way to the churches. I even saw an Imam come to Christ."


Through local church partnerships, Open Doors is strengthening the church to take advantage of the many opportunities for ministry, even in the ongoing crisis situation. This includes:

  • Partnering with the local church to care for and provide relief aid to tens of thousands of displaced Christians, and starting all kinds of rehab programmes for them
  • Distributing Bibles, Study Bibles, Children's Bibles, New Testaments and Christian books
  • Providing discipleship and leadership training for church leaders and youth leaders
  • Trauma counselling and debriefing
  • Building bridges between Christian denominations by sponsoring conferences to which all denominations are invited.


  • For strength and protection for Christians in Syria, particularly for Open Doors partners and others who are choosing to stay and serve their communities
  • For the almost 6 million refugees who have fled the war in Syria, that churches in their host countries will show them the love of Christ
  • For wisdom for the leaders of Syria, and for God to use them to bring peace.


Syria: Crippled by an economic crisis

31st Jul 2020

Found in Prayer News

The events unfolding in Syria currently are leading to an economic crisis. At least one million Syrians are in immediate need of food aid, facing…

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Is there hope for Syria's disappearing church?

22nd Jul 2020

Found in Podcast

The church in Syria has been devastated by years of civil war and persecution. Listen in as we talk about why there is hope for…

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Urgent News from Syria

21st May 2020

Found in Featured Story

War has heavily impacted Syria. You can imagine how nine years of war has left many Syrians in dire need. While the war still is…

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