A Christian pastor in Aleppo refuses to leave the war-torn city and wants to continue serving Muslims and Christians in need.
A large number of Christians have fled Aleppo since the war in Syria started but a pastor, who goes by the pseudonym Alim, has chosen to stay even as his brothers in Germany are compelling him to leave, World Watch Monitor reports.
Alim currently resides in a part of the city controlled by the Syrian government. His congregation helps about 2,000 families, both Christians and Muslims, every month with the help of motivated people. The church provides food and other necessities such as medicine, clean drinking water and even money to pay for rent.
Bombs constantly explode in the area where Alim lives. "The other day, as we finished our meeting on Friday, a bomb exploded next to the church, killing a young girl and her brother. On Sunday, when we were getting ready for church, bombs exploded around our house," he said.
One of Alim's relatives died after a shrapnel from a rocket broke through the walls of his parents' house. He said that he receives news of someone's death everyday but he still wants to make a difference and help those who are still alive.
The pastor said that the church is now building bridges with non-Christians and they have visited displaced people who are staying in schools, mosques and unfinished buildings. He has observed that the attitude of Muslims toward Christians have changed since the war.
"What we see and hear is often heart-breaking. Yet these people now see what the Church does. There is now a greater appreciation for its role. Before, people reacted differently towards the church. Before, as we were distributing food, we heard people saying: 'Here come the infidels': now people are different," he said.
Alim noted that his church had 150 to 200 members before the war. He said that number stays the same today but most of the members are new. The church baptizes 15 to 20 people each year and an equal number has chosen not to be baptized because of community pressure.
The pastor estimated that only 30,000 Christians remain in Aleppo. He believes that the city would not remain the same if all the Christians left. "Christians maintain a balance in society, it is essential for us to stay," he said.
The Christian advocacy group Open Doors has started the One Million Voices petition to call on the U.N. to improve the living conditions of Christians in Syria and Iraq, and to ensure the protection of their rights.