Sometimes facts can leave us knowing less than we did when we started. That’s how it seems to be at least. I think it’s part of the problem of spending so much of my life in education. I know how to read facts, I know how to analyse facts. I know how to memorise them and criticise them and reproduce them in essays. And since I’ve left university and begun working in a school, I’ve learnt how to teach other people to memorise, criticise and reproduce facts too. What I seem to have forgotten how to do is to actually think about what these facts mean.
In the city of Homs, in Syria, there used to be 80,000 Christians and now there are only 80. That’s a fact. But it’s so much more than a fact. Imagine two football stadiums of people, or 10 soul survivors or eighty secondary schools. That’s 80,000 about people. Then imagine if one by one every single person was either brutally murdered, kidnapped, or ran away and you were left with 80 people: less than the size of your church, one year group at school or on a double decker bus.
And each of these people was somebody’s mother, someone’s wife, someone’s best friend, daughter, doctor, teacher. Imagine coming home from school to find all your family had been killed. Or even just leaving for school and wondering if they would be. Imagine if each week less families were turning up to church and you had no idea what happened to them, but you could be pretty sure it wasn’t just that they wanted to sleep in on Sundays. And imagine if all of this was happening just because you’re a Christian. That’s the reality – that’s the facts. That’s worth praying for.
But God has not forgotten Syria. In the midst of all this the church is standing strong. Muslims are coming to Christians asking not only for food but for prayer and for their presence. The church is reaching out and helping the crumbling world around it. Some people will ask how there can be a God who allows such things, but the fact that these people will risk their lives to stay in Syria to bring what little food they do have to their enemies is what tells me that the God they are doing it for must be real. That’s a fact worth learning.