Meeting Jesus in a warzone

Sozan remains devoted to her Christian faith despite hostility(Photo: Open Doors UK & Ireland)

Fear is all too familiar to 22-year-old Sozan. She felt it when a group of men in her neighbourhood threatened to kill her.

And she felt it when bombs were dropping so close to her house in north west Syria that the entire building shook.

But each time, Sozan was able to find refuge in the homes of fellow Christians in Qamishli, her home city on the Turkish border. Alliance Church, supported by charity Open Doors, has turned itself into a centre for hope supporting persecuted Christians and people in need.

Sozen was trembling, huddled with her family in their home. It was October 2019. Turkish forces were bombing Qamishli as part of their efforts to establish a 'safe zone', a 30km corridor free from Kurdish militia along the Syria-Turkey northeast border.

"We were so afraid," said Sozan. "We prayed a lot. We heard sounds of the explosions. Two bombs fell close to our house.

"As this was happening Hannan, our church pastor's wife, called us and offered us to come to their place which was safer."

The family used a short pause in the bombardment to run from their home to the pastor's house.

"We ran out of our house and we saw more people running," said Sozan.

"We stayed with the pastor's family until the bombing stopped and it was safer to return home."

But it's not only shelling which has put Sozen's life in danger. Even before that, she had to run for her life after she converted to Christianity from Islam.

"After my sisters and I became Christians and started going to church, people in the neighbourhood started talking negatively about us," she said.

"One day, I think about six weeks after my conversion, I was out with my sister Arya.

"A group of men came to hurt us. They said we had a bad reputation, and we should be killed.  Both of us were crying, we were so afraid.

"But then Jesus appeared to me. He said to me: 'Don't be afraid.' Then the people suddenly apologised and left. That could only have been God's work."

However, Sozan and her sister were then ostracised by their community.

Sozan has no regrets about converting to Christianity despite being ostracised by her community (Photo: Open Doors UK & Ireland)

"People didn't want to know us anymore," said Sozan. "People wouldn't talk to us. It was as though we didn't exist.

"Later some Muslim men came to our father. They said that we, as his daughters had a bad reputation and that we should be killed; that our father should take care that this shame would be washed away."

The sisters were forced to flee Qamishli and, again, her church helped her find a safe place to stay.

Sozan now lives back in her hometown of Qamishli but she still prays for protection every time she leaves her house.

In all these harrowing situations Sozan says she does not know where she would have been without Alliance Church.

"We were in a dire situation," she said.

"Life for us was like hell before we came to Jesus. It was like living in a forest full of monsters.

"But during the horror, the church stood with us. We were given relief aid and we got shelter when we faced persecution.

"God told His children to help others like us. Through that we are feeling that God is with us, that He is not leaving us at all."

Open Doors Standing Strong Online 2020 event, which features stories of courageous faith from persecuted Christians around the world, takes place on Saturday, October 3 at 7.45pm.