August 20, 2011 - The image of Christians sharing their faith in a Muslim-dominated country may come as a surprise to some, but Christianity has actually had its roots in Syria since early in the first century.

Following his conversion on the road to Damascus, Paul established the first organized Christian church at Antioch in ancient Syria.

John the Baptist's head is said to be located in Syria's Omayyad mosque, which was a church at one time. And up the road from the mosque is the Chapel of Ananias, where locals say the Lord used Ananias to cure Paul's blindness.

"This is the place where the apostle Paul received his calling to share the gospel across the Roman world," a Syrian pastor said. "Today, Christians have the freedom to worship openly here. And we are proclaiming the name of Jesus Christ everywhere in Syria."

Christians make up 10 percent of the Syrian population. The majority are Muslims. Most of the Christians live in the cities of Damascus, Aleppo, Hamah and Latakia.

The Orthodox and Catholic churches have the strongest following among beleivers. There are also nearly a half a dozen evangelical churches.

Edward Awabdeh pastors a congregation on the west side of the capital.

"Less than one percent of the population are evangelicals in Syria. So we are a small minority," he said.

Still, the evangelical community is seeing some growth.

Ibrahim Samara pastors an evangelical church in the old city of Damascus.

"The church today in Syria is living in its Golden Age. We see a hunger for God among the youth. And many families are expressing openness to the message of Christ," he explained. "The church is also moving in freedom."


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