As Syria continues to be torn apart by civil conflict and the ongoing war against Islamic State, one church pastor says people are are still coming to faith in Jesus Christ.
"Syria is getting torn apart and evil is all around us. We can touch evil and feel it. It is heavy on our hearts. But we also experience truth of the living Jesus Christ. It is encouraging though to me to see Isaiah 60, which says the light rises up on the church and his glory is on the church," Pastor Edward told the Christian Post.
He recounted the story of a Muslim couple who converted to Christianity when they were given a Bible.
"There was a husband and a wife who wanted to compare the God of the Bible with the God of the Qur'an. The more they studied, the more they came to realise that they wanted to follow the God of the Bible who taught love, kindness and forgiveness," he said.
"I hear stories like this from people who once they read the Bible, would rather follow Jesus."
Pastor Edward also shared stories of Christians who had been killed for their faith by ISIS. One man decided not to hide when extremists came looking for him. "He told his mother Jesus said, 'If you deny me I will deny you.' And he was killed," Edward recalled. "His mother was not even allowed to bury his body."
A doctor friend of the church pastor was killed by jihadis after he chose not to flee so he could help those left behind with their medical needs.
"He could have gone to safety, but he chose to specifically stay to help others," Pastor Edward said. "He was taken by Islamic extremists and on camera, was killed. The video is so shocking and it gives me great pain."
But in the face of intense persecution, Pastor Edward said Syrian Christians are uplifted by the prayers of brothers and sisters around the world.
"It is hard to forgive, especially when our friends and family are killed for seemingly senseless reasons. But because Jesus taught us to forgive our enemies, we do. We find strength in knowing that others around the world are praying for us and thinking of us," he said.
"I want Christians to know that their support and prayers means a lot to us. We can feel your prayers. It strengthens us and lifts us up."
Pastor Edward partners with Open Doors, a persecution watchdog that last week released its annual list of the 50 worst countries in which to live as a Christian. Syria ranked at number 6 – a figure that "reflects that the situation is still dire for Christians," Open Doors said.
"Aleppo was home to 400,000 Christians at the start of the civil war – now Open Doors estimates that less than 60,000 Christians remain with families still leaving every day. The few Christians who stay are largely in Christian enclaves; outside these areas they are targets for radical extremists."