STANDING ON A rooftop overlooking the devastation of Beirut in 1989, Nora Haddad* had determined to commit suicide.
More than a decade into the 15-year Lebanese civil war, 18-year-old Haddad had witnessed the devastation firsthand. Born in Lebanon and raised in a family that was nominally Catholic, she became disgusted by the violence among religious factions that prevailed during the war. “Christians were the most cruel—they were often the worst,” she says. “How could I believe God existed when even animals were living better than us?”
Haddad waited on the balcony for a missile to come and kill her. She asked God, “If you are there, show me something through your Word.” She says God led her to Romans 8:31: “If God is for us, who is against us?” Shortly thereafter, a stranger came to her door and began to tell her about Jesus. After hearing the message of salvation in Christ, she says, she knew there was hope.
Haddad became a disciple. In 1997, her journey led her to Syria, where she has become one of the most influential leaders of an evangelistic movement that endures amid the refugee crisis and the genocide of Christians and other minorities in the region.
Challenges in Syria
Less than 10 percent of people in Syria are Christians, including Orthodox, Uniate, and Nestorian sects. Life for Syrian Christians under the Assad regimes has been challenging in many ways. During the reign of former president Hafez al-Assad, overt proselytization was not legal.
A huge statue of the Virgin Mary towers over churches, monasteries and mosques in the Syrian city of Maaloula, where a dialect of the Aramaic language of Jesus is still spoken.
The town has managed to stay out of the Syrian conflict between Sunni Muslim rebels and the regime of dictator Bashar Assad, as have most of Syria’s 2 million Christians.
But worsening violence has forced the community into a corner: Continuous clashes between the rebels and the regime in this isolated town of 2,000 people as well as other Christian towns over the past two weeks have many Christians worried that they will no longer be allowed to stay neutral.
As the Obama administration considers a strike in response to recent chemical attacks, the head of a global evangelical group said Wednesday that Christians in the Middle East oppose military intervention in Syria.
“There is major consensus amongst the Christian leaders in this region that any military intervention would have a detrimental effect … on Christians in Syria,” wrote Geoff Tunnicliffe, secretary general/CEO of World Evangelical Alliance, in a letter to the State Department, the White House and the United Nation’s Security Council.