By Sheraz Khan, Middle East Correspondent for ASSIST News Service
AFRIN, SYRIA (ANS — January 23, 2018) — A church in Afrin, a city in the north of Syria, has issued a plea for protection from the international community as the city of Afrin is under attack by the Turkish military and its allies, ANS has learnt.
According to a news release from Open Doors UK (www.opendoorsuk.org), the Church of the Good Shepherd, one of the local churches in the Afrin, has asked Open Doors for prayer for an end to the attacks on their city, and urged the international community to stop the bombings and protect the citizens of Afrin.
According to the release, Pastor Valentin Hanan of the church said: “We are at this moment under heavy shelling, and Islamic groups are threatening to enter the area.”
Open Doors UK quoted Turkish Prime Minister, Binali Yildirim, as sying the aim was to establish a 30 kilometer (about 19 miles) “safe zone” deep inside Syria.
The release went on to say that over 200 families attend the Church of the Good Shepherd, adding, “Many families from the church have fled the city, others are in shelters.”
The release stated that according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 22 civilians have died in Turkish air and artillery strikes.
The Turkish military launched its “Operation Olive Branch” offensive on Saturday, the 20th of January, to oust from the region Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) that it considers a terrorist group, said the release.
The release quoted a spokesperson for Open Doors as saying: “It’s a tragedy to see more bloodshed unfolding in Syria. We will be asking our supporters and Christians around the world to unite in prayer for a peaceful outcome.”
“Syria is number 15 on the 2018 Open Doors World Watch List,” stated the release. “Militant Islamic groups are a clear threat to all Christians in Syria. In areas controlled by radical Islamic groups, most historic churches are demolished or used as Islamic centres.”
It added: “The amount of opposition a church receives can depend on its political reputation. Church leaders, particularly, are targeted for abduction. Government authorities restrict the activities of evangelical Christians and converts to prevent instability. Christians from a Muslim background face pressure from their families to recant, as their conversion brings shame on the family,”
Syria is number 15 on the 2018 Open Doors World Watch List. “Militant Islamic groups are a clear threat to all Christians in Syria,” stated the news release. “In areas controlled by radical Islamic groups, most historic churches are demolished or used as Islamic centres. The amount of opposition a church receives can depend on its political reputation. Church leaders, particularly, are targeted for abduction. Government authorities restrict the activities of evangelical Christians and converts to prevent instability. Christians from a Muslim background face pressure from their families to recant, as their conversion brings shame on the family.”
It also revealed that Turkey is number 31 on the 2018 Open Doors World Watch List, adding:. “Leaving Islam is seen as a betrayal of Turkish identity. Some believers from Muslim backgrounds keep their faith a secret and are too afraid to meet with other Christians because of pressure from their families and communities. Religion is recorded on ID cards, and can be difficult to change. If believers change their religion to ‘Christian’ on their ID cards, it is easy for employers to discriminate against them. However, if they don’t, their children will automatically be registered as Muslim and expected to attend Islamic classes.
Note: Open Doors UK & Ireland is part of Open Doors International, a global NGO network founded by Dutchman, Brother Andrew, the author of God’s Smuggler, which has supported and strengthened persecuted Christians in over 60 countries for over 60 years. Last year it raised approximately $70 million USD to provide practical support to persecuted Christians such as food, medicines, trauma care, legal assistance, safe houses and schools, as well as spiritual support through Christian literature, training and resources. Open Doors UK & Ireland raised over £11 million (about $15 million USD).
Every year Open Doors publishes the World Watch List — a ranking of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. This is produced using detailed information provided by Open Doors co-workers in more than 60 countries, as well as independent experts. Data is gathered on five spheres of life — private, family, community, national and church life — plus a sixth sphere measuring the degree of violence impacting Christians. Persecution in each country is recorded by Open Doors using a point system. Open Doors’ research methods and results have been independently audited by the International Institute for Religious Freedom. The 2018 World Watch List accounts for the 12 months ending on October 31, 2017.
Photo captions: 1) Turkish security forces on Saturday hit several PKK/PYD targets in the Afrin district of Syria’s Aleppo province to prevent a “terror corridor” from forming along Turkey’s borders. 2) Children from different confessions, have gathered throughout Syria to pray for peace. Will you join them? 3) Turkish troops advance on Kurdish-held areas of Northern Syria. (Credit: Twitter). 4) Brother Andrew (left), the founder of Open Doors, with ANS founder, Dan Wooding. Dan worked as a writer with Brother Andrew for several years before beginning ASSIST. 5) Sheraz Khan.
About the writer: Sheraz Khan, Middle East Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, is a Pakistani-British journalist. He lives in Scotland and can be contacted by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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