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Hope is a four-letter word

By Stella Chetham | 14 Mar 2016

Tuesday 15 March marks five years since the start of Syria’s brutal war. Let’s join together this week to counter despair and bring back some much-needed hope for Syria.

When it comes to Syria, the very mention of hope could seem foolishly optimistic.

Let’s put the crisis into perspective. In just half a decade, Syria’s war has sparked one of the greatest humanitarian emergencies of a generation. It’s the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War. More than a quarter of a million people have been killed. An average of 50 Syrian families have fled their homes every hour of every day since 2011.

Around half of Syria’s entire population is now homeless, with 6.6 million people displaced within the country and 4.8 million living as refugees elsewhere. Even having escaped the fighting, people face impossible choices, leading many to risk their lives afresh on dangerous migration routes.

And yet, in the darkest places, the light shines the brightest.

With the effects now being felt across Europe and around the world, and daily reports of brutality in Syria continuing despite recent attempts at a ceasefire, no one knows how this will end. Despair is the mood of the day.

And yet, in the darkest places, the light shines the brightest.

If you know where to look there is light. Extraordinary things are happening. People are defying hardship and making Christ-like sacrifices to help those around them. Others are learning to love their enemies. Many more are finding hope in God when everything else has gone.

Working across the Middle East, I am constantly amazed by the people I meet and the way they are living out their faith. I wish I could tell you about every one of them but I can’t without risking their security. But please let me assure you that remarkable things are happening here.

Five years of despair. Five reasons for hope

To give you a glimpse of these remarkable things, every day this week we will share a different reason for hope. I hope from these, that you’ll get a sense of how God is at work and will be encouraged that there is no situation too hopeless for Him to transform for good.

‘Where can I go from your Spirit? …If I make my bed in the depths, you are there… Even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.’
Psalm 139:7-10

So where is the hope? Well, to start with, people like you are more aware than ever of the crisis, and more and more are asking what they can do to help. The world’s eyes are on Syria, which means the world’s prayers can be mobilised.

Defiant hope

I asked our Middle Eastern partners, ‘What gives you hope for Syria?’ And their responses moved me to tears. In the coming days you’ll hear how people across the region are showing extraordinary hospitality and kindness, and how old prejudices are being overturned as people choose to reach out to help former enemies. You’ll read about the resilience of Syrians who rebuild again and again; and how, amid great evil, love is at work in its most potent form.

As we present these reasons for hope, we’d love you to share them and take some of the actions suggested. Most of all, we ask you to join us in prayer: for ordinary people struggling to keep their families alive; for the healers and the reconcilers; and for the aggressors too, because no one is beyond redemption.

We owe it to our Syrian brothers and sisters not to turn away, to keep believing and praying for a miracle. Let’s defy the prevailing mood of despair and answer it with trust in a God who makes beauty from ashes. Let’s make sure hope is more than a four-letter word for Syria.

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Photo of Stella Chetham

Written by Stella Chetham