Christian congregation in Syria defies ISIS by continuing church services amid persecution

A Christian congregation in Syria is defying the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) by continuing to hold church services amidst the threat of violence and death.

Debris lie inside a damaged church in Mar Bacchus Sarkis monastery, in Maloula village, northeast of Damascus, after soldiers loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad took control of it from rebel fighters, April 14, 2014. | Reuters/Khaled Al-Hariri

While many Christians fled Syria after ISIS razed the war-torn region, Pastor Edward Awabdeh and his congregation stayed and supported each other through the crisis. At one point, a bomb fell on the pastor's house but fortunately did not explode, the Express relays.

In February last year, ISIS attacked 35 Christian villages and kidnapped more than 250 people along the way. Their atrocities drove 3,000 more to flee their homeland.

"Really it's very important and meaningful for us as Middle Eastern to see the church with its roots deep back in history stay there and just stay to do the work of Christ there," said Pastor Awabdeh. "Not just to keep a name but to keep a name with a power and life and really making a difference in the lives of people and in the country, like a light in the darkness at that part of the world," he continued.

Together with his wife Rana and Christian charity Open Doors, Pastor Awabdeh helps 2,000 families in Syria. They strive to create a sense of normality for the children by providing post-traumatic support, counseling, and engaging them in art activities. Aside from pasturing his flock at the Alliance Church in Damascus, he also oversees 20 other churches in the country, Christian Today details.

Many people have questioned why Pastor Awabdeh and his wife chose to stay, but he told Christian Today that he considers it a privilege to be in Syria at a time like this. He added that they are just living their calling and do not find it a sacrifice at all, especially because the people need them and the Church as well.

Every week, around 250 members brave the threats of torture and death to attend the Church service. Pastor Awabdeh says he finds it amazing that the Church has become a source of peace and hope in the war-torn country. The minister says God is touching people's hearts even at this time of crisis, and for that he is thankful.

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