Syria Update: Christians in Qamishli Caught in the Middle
Open Doors partners are on the ground in Northern Syria at this time. They are reaching out with help to those who have been impacted by the bombings, and they shared some heart wrenching details with us.
Our partners tell us that all was calm in Al Qamishli in North Syria. Children were in school, men and women at work, shops were open, taxis driving around when all of a sudden, bomb explosions ended peace in the town on Wednesday afternoon October 9th. Life was suddenly disrupted. People rushed back to their houses, kids were dismissed from the classrooms and the streets became empty. Life stopped.
Pastor George Moushi is an Open Doors’ partner and he leads the Alliance Church in Al Qamishli. He saw the need of the people in this situation, and told us that unfortunately, missiles don’t differentiate between a child or a grown up, between a terrorist or a mother.
Pastor George described the damage he saw on the ground: “Thankfully the bombs didn’t hit the center of the city where the majority of people are but, despite that, there were deaths and people injured.
Today I visited a Christian family whose house was hit by two missiles. Fadi Habsouna, the father of two children, was injured and lost his house and his shop. His wife was also severely injured in her spine and she is in a critical state. Doctors said she needs surgery and she might be paralyzed forever.”
“We gave him money for basic medications but the operations are expensive so I asked the hospital to inform me about the costs and I hope we can get support for that. His wife might need to be transferred to Damascus to be treated due to the humble equipment here in Qamishli.”
Pastor George heard that the house of the grandfather of someone in his church named Hossam was hit by a missile but, thankfully, the family wasn’t there so nobody got hurt. The house was destroyed so he took action to set up a house that belongs to the church where the man can live temporarily, but they need a permanent solution.
He described a man who was beheaded in the street when shrapnel hit his neck: “It was horrifying scene.”
“Friday night the bakery was hit. It is the main source of our bread. People are really concerned about the prisons where ISIS members are held – one in Hassakeh and one in Qamishli – getting hit and that prisoners might escape.”
In Qamishli there is a Syriac protection office which is called “Sootoro”, Pastor Moushi says. “The Sootoro here caught someone in our area, who they suspect to be part of self-proclaimed Islamic State. They are investigating him. People are afraid of terrorist attacks that these people might plan after being freed, especially against Christians.”
From the north of Syria there is a new wave of citizens fleeing the region. Pastor George: “Christians are leaving in big numbers either from Qamishli or from Al Malikiyah. They are going to Al Hasakah even though it is also not safe right now but still better than Qamishli. Other people who have the means to reach further than Al Hasakah are going to Homs. Each day there are more than 10 buses taking people from all religions or denominations towards other cities like Homs and even Damascus.
“We as a church had a meeting on Saturday (Oct. 12) to decide if we should stay or leave. About eight families have decided to leave, to go to Homs. It is a group of about 40 people. We as a church decided to support whoever decides to stay by all means possible.
“May God guide us to do the right thing in this difficult situation. May he protect us from the evil and the work of evil.”
Through church partners and churches, Open Doors is on the ground, assessing and responding to immediate needs and caring for those affected by the fighting. So far, Open Doors has been able to continue working in the country to do things through these local church partners like helping with emergency support, pastoral and trauma support as well as other needs communicated by the local Christian communities.
Please pray for Christians caught in the middle of this conflict, that they would be God’s light and hope in the midst of the darkness and chaos of war. Please give to the Syria emergency appeal so that we can give to help our local partners who have been in the region for many years, and are well-placed to offer vital assistance now.