The conflict in Syria has been in the news nearly every day for the last several years. It is the home to one of the largest terror organizations this decade has seen and has been the backdrop for one of the largest humanitarian crises the world has seen since World War II. Why Syria? Why has this tiny nation become the fulfilment of so many Biblical prophecies? What is really going on in Syria?
Just like Christianity, Islam has many different denominations. The primary sects are the Sunnis and the Shias. While both revere the prophet Muhammad and claim to follow the Quran, the two groups agree on little else, causing a conflict that has lasted for centuries.
Syria has an estimated population of around 22 million and of that population, around 74% claim to be Sunni Muslim and 13% claim to be Shia.
ISIS or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, are a militant group of Islamic fundamentalists that believe the Sunni interpretation of the Quran and the Hadiths. The Hadiths are a collection of teachings and commentaries on the Quran given by the prophet Muhammad himself. Some of the more extreme Sunni Fundamentalists, including the members of ISIS and other Syrian rebels, believe that the Hadiths claim that a Messiah will come for followers of Islam only after there is a great war in Syria.
The goal of ISIS is to bring their Messiah by instigating this global war.
While ISIS’s persecution of Christians has been in the news, little has been said about the persecution of other Muslims. Members of ISIS believe that to be a true Muslim, one must have a complete knowledge of all the teachings of Islam and follow closely each of its doctrinal pillars. However, few Syrians have access to the education necessary to achieve such devotion and have now found themselves brutally persecuted by their own people?
So why can’t these Sunnis go to the government for help?
The Syrian Government is made almost entirely of Shia Muslims, specifically the Alawite sect of Shia. Syrian president Bashar al-Assad is himself a member of a predominantly Alawite political party. They follow nearly the same Quran and the same Hadiths as the Sunnis, but they interpret them differently. For the past few decades, the Shia government has tried to keep the Sunni rebels at bay through chemical warfare. Though they want a peaceful Syria, they have no love for the Sunni population, even those who aren’t members of ISIS or the rebel groups.
The Refugee Crisis
Hunted by ISIS and resisted by their own government, the majority of the Syrian Sunni population has found themselves with nowhere to turn. This is why we have witnessed the millions of refugees flooding into Europe and the rest of the world. Remaining in Syria means death for men and slavery and other horrors for women and children. Fleeing to Europe means a dangerous journey with no guarantee of a better life across the border.
Although the recent US and Russia brokered truce has attempted to put the violence in Syria on a temporary hold to allow much needed humanitarian aid to reach some of the most desperate areas, there is no assurance that such a truce will last. ISIS wants the war to continue and the fear to spread and for violence to continue. The recent bombings in Damascus and Homs prove this to be the case.
We need to join together and pray for the situation in Syria! Pray for those trying to solve the crisis and for those caught up in it. Pray that everyone involved will come to know the peace of God.