Syria (MNN) — The Middle East is falling apart. After 20 months of civil war in Syria, fighting is intensifying and the UN says more than 300,000 Syrians are seeking refuge in surrounding nations. In October, some 311,500 refugees were registered at UN camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq.
Jeff Palmer, CEO of Baptist Global Response, says this number is just the tip of the iceberg.
"Those are the ones that are counted by UN and government; there are maybe that many more living [inside of Syria]," says Palmer. "We're trying to help those [refugees] get some warm clothing, some heat, and some winter-proofing to the shelters that they're in, so they can survive in the cold weather."
Syrian conflict began in March 2011 after protestors took to the streets nationwide, demanding the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad. Intense fighting between government security forces and rebel armies drove people out of homes and communities; its continuation leaves millions stranded.
"It is tragic right now. It's horrible," says Palmer. "Most of the folks that we're having contact with, that are coming out [of Syria], are women and children.
"They're like you and me. They want to go home at the end of the day, but they can't because of what's happening in their country."
While western nations face pressure to intervene in Syria, BGR says God is already at work among the refugees.
"In times of crisis, there's opportunity to minister to people physically in the name of Christ, and spiritually as well," Palmer says.
According to one BGR report, at least 250,000 Syrian refugees have crowded into towns and tents along the Jordanian border, where local Christians and aid workers deliver food and other items for basic survival.
In one village, an influential Syrian Muslim leader welcomed aid workers as they brought food for him to distribute to refugees in the community. Palmer says the leader showed appreciation for these gifts but expressed a far deeper need to workers.
"We don't need your boxes of food," the leader stated. "What we need is somebody to come and teach us how to talk in the way of Jesus and how we can forgive one another. We don't know how to live with each other."
With new reports daily of turmoil, and all the signs pointing toward an inevitable war in the Middle East, what can we do?
"We can pray for peace, however that would occur," says Palmer. "Whether that's [through] intervention or change of hearts…we do want to pray for peace in Syria. The folks that we're able to help are mostly on the outside right now, and there are 5 times or 10 times as many people on the inside of the country suffering.
"If peace comes, we can get to those folks and be able to help them as well."
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