says Syrian refugee John, now living in Lebanon.
John was a nominal Christian, a wealthy agriculturalist who lost everything in the civil war. And when IS moved in they made him pay jizya tax – a fine in gold for being a Christian.
They came to his farm to steal his animals and shot him in the leg. But astonishingly, John says it was worth it all.
‘I lost a million dollars,’ he says, ‘but I gained Jesus Christ.’
As well as IS, he had Syrian militia to contend with. ‘They were kidnapping Christians, so I was afraid for my daughters. I sent my family to Lebanon.’
Later, friends helped him escape. But it wasn’t plain sailing for John in Lebanon.
‘For the first six months I was depressed. I thought if Jesus wanted to save me, He would have saved my property. I lost everything in the war and I was bitter.’
But John’s wife persuaded him into going to an evangelical church, which partners with Release in supporting refugees.
‘The Pastor told me to read the Bible,’ says John. ‘As I read it, I realised that although I had lost a million dollars in property, I was gaining Christ. I went on to work for the church and help other refugees.
‘Today, Jesus is everything! I no longer care what I have lost. Now I sleep soundly because I have given Him all that I am and I know He will provide for me every day.’
John considered himself a Christian – until he found Christ personally. And many Muslims refugees have found Jesus, too – often through direct revelation of Jesus.
According to the United Nations, there are close to one million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, a country with a population of just six million.
Scaled up to the UK, that would make as many refugees as the entire populations of Birmingham, Manchester, Portsmouth and London combined.
And the Lebanese have every reason to be suspicious of Syrians. Lebanon has been occupied by Syria, dominated by Syria and at war with Syria in recent history. Now the country is having to feed, clothe and house many thousands of its people.
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