In the midst of the civil war, Christians are targeted by the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS), as well as other radical Islamist groups.


World Watch List Rank World Watch List Score
15 76/100
Leader Population
President Bashar al-Assad 19 million | 794,000 Christians
Main Religion Government
Islam Republic
WWL Rank in 2017 Persecution Level
6 Very High Persecution

This year, churches and Christian-owned businesses were targets of IS bombings, and there have been many reports of Christians being abducted, physically harmed and killed. IS's propaganda magazine has said that IS fighters are allowed to rape non-Muslim women. Despite this, some Christians are committed to staying in Syria and hope to play a part in bringing reconciliation to their communities.


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.


  • Pray for those that are suffering by reading the latest prayer requests from persecuted Christians around the world.
  • Advocate for persecuted Christians by signing the Hope for Middle East Petition.
  • Consider donating your resources to Open Doors.