|Syrian Arab Republic|
Area 185,180 sq.km. Fertile plain on Mediterranean coast; 60% desert in centre and east but crossed by Euphrates River.
Capital Damascus 2,550,000. Other major city: Aleppo 1.9mill. Urbanites 52%.
Arab 92%. Bedouin 1,300,000; Palestinian 550,000.
Other 8%. Kurd 800,000; Armenian 150,000; Turk/Turkmen 150,000; Assyrian 50,000; Iranian 50,000; Ossetian 50,000; Circassian (Adygey) 25,000; Dom Gypsy 10,000.
Literacy 71%. Official language Arabic. All languages 17. Languages with Scripture 4Bi 2NT 1por 4w.i.p.
Oil and agriculture are important. Heavy military spending in decades of confrontation with Israel have hampered development. Poor economic infrastructure and growing vulnerability to regional water shortages increase the possibility of future economic downturns. HDI 0.663; 111th/174. Public debt 98% of GNP. Income/person $1,120 (3.6% of USA).
Independent from France in 1946. Continuous upheavals until the coup in 1970. Relative internal stability under an Alawite minority, military-civilian socialist government. Since 1973, Syria has sought to gain political dominance in war-torn Lebanon and still exerts a strong influence over its small neighbour. Longstanding President Assad's iron grip on power was finally loosened by his death in 2000. Bashar, his son and heir has inherited the mantle of leadership.
Prior to 1973 Islam was the religion of the state. Since then it has been a secular state with Islam recognized as the religion of the majority, and all other minorities accorded definite rights and privileges, with a measure of religious freedom.
1 The Alawite minority regime has retained power by crushing all political dissent. The country has been involved in wars and confrontations with surrounding states for the last 50 years. Pray for both political and religious freedom.
2 Christian minorities are tolerated and have freedom to worship and witness within their own community, but all activities that could threaten the government or communal harmony are watched. Evangelicals currently enjoy good standing, so they are hesitant to jeopardize this by witnessing too forthrightly. Pray that they might discern how best to share Christ.
3 The Muslim majority has a false conception of what a true Christian is. Pray that they may be enlightened by contacts with believers who have a holy lifestyle and radiant witness. Many Muslims are in daily contact with Christians, as are Syrian soldiers based in Lebanon.
4 Syrian Christians have been a respected minority since the time of the church in Antioch (Acts 13). The Orthodox and Catholics survived the rule of the Byzantines, Muslim Arabs, Crusaders, and Ottomans. Most Christians are Arab, but there is also a large Armenian community. Christians are influential in the cities, professions, politics and the armed forces, but their percentage of the population is shrinking due to a high rate of emigration to the Americas and Africa. Pray that believers may rediscover the zeal of the church of Antioch, and experience spiritual renewal. Pray that they may move past tolerating, fearing or even despising their Muslim neighbours and adopt an attitude of warm-hearted love.
5 The Protestant witness is small, but churches are slowly growing. The majority of Protestant converts come out of the Orthodox and Catholic churches. There is an evangelical presence in most cities, but rarely in smaller towns. Lack of full-time workers and leadership development opportunities inhibit growth, but TEE is a helpful means for giving training. Pray for more TEE tutors. Pray also for the Lord to infuse the church with zeal for the lost and give Christians godly discernment in their witness.
6 Conversions out of Islam are few, but increasing. Spiritual bondages, social barriers and religious prejudices must be broken down before some will take the decisive step. For those who do, pray for perseverance in persecution, acceptance into fellowship by other believers and growth to maturity. Most churches in Syria are not yet ready to evangelize Muslims, let alone receive converts from Islam. There are signs of positive results from Bible Correspondence Courses and student outreach.
8 Missionaries are not allowed to reside in the country. Pray for those who pay occasional pastoral visits, and for a more open door to this needy land. Pray for the ministry of Christian professionals living in the country.
a) Literature is freely available, and there is a brisk sale of Bibles from the two Bible Society bookrooms. This organisation has become well known through the annual book fair. Many secular bookstores also regularly request shipments of the Scriptures for sale. Pray for the powerful impact of God's Word on all who read it.
b) The JESUS film is widely circulated on video cassette in Arabic. It is also available in Circassian, Iraqi Arabic, Western Armenian, Assyrian, Standard Kurmanji and Syriac. Pray for many non-Christians to follow Him as a result.
c) Radio/Television. Many Muslims listen to Christian radio. TWR broadcasts 11.5 hrs/wk in Arabic. Programmes aimed at Kurds in Turkey are heard by Syrian Kurds also. SAT-7 has a valuable ministry in beaming Christian TV programmes to those with satellite dishes. Aleppo has more viewers of SAT-7 than any other Arab city.
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