Introduction / History In the 1860s the Russian Empire took over Abkhazia, a small region on the southeastern coast of the Black Sea. Many Muslim Abkhazians fled persecution by the Russians and settled at different locations in the Ottoman Empire. Some Abkhaz made their homes in the area that is currently within the nation of Syria. Up until Russian takeover of 2008, Abkhazia was a province in the nation of Georgia. Now Abkhazia is in quasi-union with Russia. Since March 2011 a civil war has been occurring in Syria. The government under Assad has been fighting the rebels who oppose the Assad Baathist regime. The United Nations estimates that at least 500,000 people have died in the fighting. Another five million people have fled Syria because of the war and 6.7 million more Syrians have been internally displaced. Due to the civil war and refugee crisis, it is impossible to estimate how many Abkhaz now live in Syria. Some have returned to the native land of Abkhazia. Many others have gone to Turkey and Europe.
What are their lives like? Before 2011 Abkhaz made their living in Syria in much the same way they did in Abkhazia. They raised cattle, grew grapes for wine, produced honey and farmed the land. Their crops included grains, fruit and vegetables. The Syrian War has changed all aspects of the Abkhaz life. The strife and violence have completely disrupted their lives. With little prospects of a quick end to the war in Syria many Abkhaz are leaving Syria just as they once fled the Russian Empire.
What are their beliefs? The large majority of the Abkhaz in Syria are Muslim. A small fraction is Eastern Orthodox Christian. Muslims try to obey the teachings of the Koran and the prophet Mohammad. They believe that by following the Five Pillars of Islam that they will attain heaven when they die. However, Allah, the supreme God of the universe, determines who enters paradise. Muslims pray five times a day facing Mecca. They fast the month of Ramadan. They attend mosque services on Friday. If a Muslim has the means, he or she will make a pilgrimage to Mecca once in his or her lifetime. Muslims are also prohibited from drinking alcohol, eating pork, gambling, stealing, using deceit, slandering, and making idols.
What are their needs? The Abkhaz in Syria need a stable society to raise their children and to work. Refugee Abkhazians need shelter, food, clean water, jobs and schools for their children. Most of all the Muslim Abkhaz must understand that Jesus or Isa is much more than a human prophet. He is the Son of God and the Lord and Savior of the world. Only He can forgive their sins and grant them eternal life.
Prayer Points Pray for a swift and just end to the war in Syria. Pray that Abkhaz parents would be able to meet the basic needs of their children. Pray that Christian agencies would be able to help the refugee Abkhaz and tell them the good news about Jesus. Pray the Lord raises up a Disciple Making Movement among the Abkhaz of Syrian in this decade. * Pray for Gospel messages to become available in audio format for this people group.