By Open Doors 22 March 2023

Urgent Prayer: Earthquake in Syria and Turkey

Please pray for all who have been affected by a huge earthquake that has caused widespread destruction and deaths in Turkey and Syria.

More than 50,000 people have died in Turkey and Syria, following the earthquakes on 6 February.

March 21

Pastor Abdallah, local church partner of Open Doors global ministry, gave this recent update from Aleppo:

“Dear brothers and sisters,

I’m so grateful to all of you who are standing with us as we go through this extraordinary time.

I’ll never forget the moment the first earthquake hit. I was in an area outside of Aleppo. I was sleeping – and I woke up to the bed shaking beneath me. I went downstairs quickly, only to see the surrounding buildings falling down due to the mighty earthquake.

I knew I had to act quickly. I got in touch with my contacts in Aleppo, and he told me they were all greatly overwhelmed, and all out on the streets out of fear. I quickly searched for a taxi to take me to Aleppo. While I was on my way, a second earthquake of the same kind hit. It caused great fear.

While I was on my way to Aleppo, I called again, and I asked them to open the church and let
people in. I knew we had to start helping as many people as we could in this difficult time.
As soon as I arrived, I went to the church where the people had gathered. People were so scared. I could see the panic in their eyes, and I realised that they were frantic but they couldn’t express their fear in words. I was very touched to see that now they felt safe.

The team and I hurried to bring everyone food and drinks. There was no electricity, so we
turned on the generators for heat.

That was several weeks ago – but people still need help, and we’re still supporting them. Our team – and teams at Centres of Hope across the region – are working so hard to provide shelter and food for all the people who don’t have homes now. We have to show them hope.

We need prayers because we need God to strengthen us. And we have to keep going, through this difficult time and for the weeks and months to come. The church in Aleppo, in Syria, has already suffered so much. But we have faith that God will use His Church and keep His church here. We want to bring the living hope of Christ to all the men, women and children in our community.

Thank you, brothers and sisters, for helping us offer that hope. Your prayers and your support in this time of darkness – we will not forget them. Thank you.”

February 22

As our partners continue to work on the ground, their support is shifting from an emergency response to reviewing the medium to long term impacts of the disaster. Here is the latest update from our local church partner in Syria:

– Many people, who initially needed shelter in our partner churches, have either been able to return home or moved to other locations.

– As the earthquake hit mostly Latakia and Aleppo (in which an estimated 50,000 Christians live), we are preparing to support 25,000 Christians there by lifting their immediate needs and stress around day-to-day life.

– We will also support the group of 2,000 Christian families who had their homes badly damaged, giving special attention and priority to people with special needs, the lonely elderly, and widows within large families.

– For the medium and long term, we plan to come alongside Christians throughout the whole of Syria, combining our response to the earthquake and the underlying crisis with the activities we have put in place over the last years to strengthen the church as Centres of Hope. The number of Centres of Hope now is 287.

Major focus areas continue in the following ways:
1. uninterrupted food supply,
2. medicinal and hygienic aid with basic healthcare through church clinics,
3. reconstruction of houses and assistance with rental costs,
4. livelihood projects such as income-generating activities,
5. trauma care inclusive of recreational spaces in churches for youth and young people,
6. continuing church worker training focused on trauma care,
7. closely monitoring how persecution dynamics and church realities are changing due to the disaster and respond to that in later stage,
8. leadership and character training skills for young people to help them make sense of the circumstances they are in

Our overall vision is to – with all humility – seek ways to make the Church shine the light of Jesus and give hope in the crisis situation, even more than before, not just for its members but also for non-Christians.

February 20

“Life, and one’s circumstances, can drastically change in just a few seconds.”
This is how Fardin, an Iranian refugee in his late forties, starts telling us his story. In that sentence he summarises what happened to tens of thousands of people in Turkey on 6 February 2023.

“We were all sleeping, around 4:30 AM, when we woke up to the loud sound of the chandelier in our room. I was lying in bed, looking at the roof and feeling the whole house shaking, thinking [and hoping] that whatever was happening would end soon. 10 seconds, 15 seconds passed, but the shaking did not stop… We ran outside.”
When asked to describe what he saw on the streets, Fardin pauses for a bit then continues:

“I saw a young man, around 30 or 40 years old, who was running and behind him was an old lady, who we found out later, was his mother. She was hardly walking to get away from the buildings. I ran and took her hand and tried my best to take her far away from the buildings as fast as I could.
“Then, I saw our neighbours, a Turkish family, a woman with her children. They did not have a car and were trying to go to some warm place because the temperatures were below zero and all they had on were their pajamas. I helped them into another neighbour’s car to make sure that they were in a warmer place until we could go elsewhere. Using my car, I then started to move people from dangerous areas to relatively ‘safer areas’… as many as I could.”

Fardin was spared during the catastrophic earthquake, and he is now helping those who were severely impacted.
“As a person, and as a child of God and follower of Jesus, I do believe that we need to be there for each other especially in times of need. It is our duty to care for each other and help each other whenever a crisis hits. After all, we are in the same ship, we are all in this disaster together.
“By seeing those awful and painful scenes happening around me, especially watching the news about the places where the damage was huge, made me to put myself and my family in those peoples’ place and think: what if I was in their place? What if my whole house fell on us? What would I do? What kind of expectations and needs would I have? What would I want others to do for me? And these thoughts have been my real motivation to help, knowing that God loves everybody, and we have to be His vessels on this earth to transfer His mercy and grace.”

*Name changed used for security reasons.

February 16

Prayer Points From A Local Partner On The Frontlines In Syria

We recently asked a local partner on the ground in Syria how we could best stand with the community in prayer. Here’s what she said:

“Well, for the time being, the church leaders still need our prayers as they manage this crisis. The pastor asked me to pray for wisdom and strength. Let’s not forget that these people, the church leaders, are also affected by the crisis. They’ve been in this like any other Syrians.

“Let’s also pray for the people who have been having doubts about all of this and are almost on the edge of despair. Because yes, this is yet another crisis for Syria. Until when, we don’t know.

We need to pray for all the field workers. People are not having the proper sleep that they need. One, lack of sleep for myself and I already feel I’m not functioning properly, like people who have been sleep-deprived for three nights or four nights already. For people to also accept their loss, their physical loss, and move on with their life, but with a renewed hope.”

February 15

One of our partners recently visited a hospital in Latakia, Syria with a team from the local church, to meet with those affected by the earthquakes. This is her experience:

“The hospital is packed. All beds are occupied. We’re bringing the patients blankets, pillows and food, as there is shortage of everything in this city right now.

“I am shocked. So many wounded, young, old, men, women. There seems to be an ocean of pain here in the hospital, what can we do with our food and blankets? What difference do we make?

“I look at Ali. He is in a deep sleep after he just underwent surgery. He is 9 years old. The only survivor in his house, his parents died in the earthquake. Does he know? What will his future look like?

“In silence I pray for the boy. I pray that the Lord will give him a future, will give him loving and caring persons who will take care of him.

“We walk to another room. There, the patients are awake. They welcome the food, the blankets, the pillows. We hand them over to them.

“Some tell their stories, about how their houses collapsed, about how happy they are to have survived, but also about the grief about the loved ones they lost, about the houses they lost.

“This visit has an impact on me. How big the need is in my country, how big the pain is in this hospital. We could only bring a drop of encouragement to them. But then I remind myself of our prayers.

“Our God will never let go of each individual He created. I pray that indeed, our visit has showed them the love of our God, who sent His Son Jesus to this earth because he so loved every individual.

“Please join me in prayer for the suffering people in Syria, in Turkey. Pray that somehow God will intervene, will heal these hurting people.”

Please continue to pray with all those affected. Latest prayer points here.

February 11

Pastor Abdallah, local church partner of the global ministry of Open Doors, shares how the earthquake is affecting Aleppo, Syria, and what they are doing to support the community.

“They couldn’t express their fear with words and they couldn’t tell what happened to them… I was very touched to see that now they feel safe.”

February 10

We recently interviewed Leyla Samar, an aid worker in Aleppo who works for a local Open Doors partner. This is her first-hand account of what is happening on the ground amongst the devastation.

Read: Update From Open Doors Local Partner In Aleppo

February 10

Following the devastating earthquakes in Turkey, more than 20,000 people have lost their lives across Turkey and Syria, with a further 60,000 injured. Those numbers are sadly predicted to increase as rescue efforts continue.

An unknown number of people cannot return to their homes as the buildings are damaged by the earthquake. According to the World Health Organisation, 23 million people are affected by the earthquake in the two countries.

Local church partners supported by the global ministry of Open Doors are on the ground now, coordinating their response.

In Aleppo and Latakia, Syria, people are searching for a safe place to stay for the night. Churches have opened their doors and people are now starting to find a place to sleep there. There is now place for 7,000 people in the different churches spread over Aleppo. The total number of Christians in Aleppo amounts to 25,000. Not all are affected.

The team itself in Latakia and in Aleppo is affected as well; they share the same fear and fatigue with all the other inhabitants, but they are with love helping the people in their cities.

As emergency help, the global ministry of Open Doors immediately started to support the churches that offer shelter to the victims of the earthquake, to those whose houses are damaged, and to those who are afraid to sleep in their houses or apartments. We also support the distribution of food to those people, as well as clean water, hygiene kits, blankets, and mattresses.

Please continue to pray with all those affected. Latest prayer points here.

February 7

Your prayers are urgently needed, following a devastating earthquake. The epicentre of the magnitude 7.8 earthquake on the morning of 6 February was in the South of Turkey in the Gaziantep province. According to several reports, more than 7,000 people have been killed – the full scale of the damage and the number of victims may be even worse.

It is said to be one of the strongest earthquakes to hit the region in over a century. An Open Doors partner called Father Fadi shares what he has seen in Latakia. His church buildings suffered material damage, though thankfully nobody was killed there.

“In other buildings in our city, there are dead people and you can hear now the ambulances. There are a lot of casualties,” he shares. “Please we ask you to pray for Latakia, to pray for Syria, for those who are suffering from the earthquake.”

Keep praying for Syria and Turkey

According to another Open Doors partner in Syria, “The earthquake affected many cities in Syria, like Aleppo, Latakia, Tartus, Homs and Hama. It was very scary, I live in an apartment building; thank God our building did not collapse.”

She adds that a priest is still stuck under the rubble in Aleppo. It is not yet known how all Open Doors partner organisations and projects are affected, but any further information to inform your prayers will be added here.

Emergency workers continue to search the rubble for survivors.

Please join with the local church in praying for all affected – whether injured, traumatised or grieving.

Please pray:

  • Pray for those who have lost loved ones, that they might experience the peace of Jesus Christ in the midst of their heartache.
  • Pray for rescue efforts, that many are able to be rescued and rehabilitated.
  • Pray that supply routes for emergency aid across the region are not impacted by weather, road damage or political agendas.
  • Pray that this catastrophe has a unifying impact on Syria and surrounding regions, to end years of war and tension.
  • Pray that the church continues to live open-heartedly and generously, to show the love of Jesus to those who are in need.

How you can help

  • A gift of $45 could provide a vital packet of food, clothing and blankets for persecuted Christians in the Middle East struggling to survive
  • Every $25 could help a believer from the Middle East get trauma support and counselling to heal from their persecution
  • And $60 could enable two vulnerable believers to access essential health services across the Middle East.
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