Europe (MNN) — Police reports from England and Wales surfaced last week stating nearly 900 Syrian refugees were arrested over the course of the last year. Headlines listed crime examples of child abuse, sexual assault, and death threats.
However, Tasos Ioannidis with AMG International says headlines like these can be misleading and create unnecessary fear.
“Most of the arrests that have taken place are because people don’t have proper documentation because they are refugees, or because they rode the bus without paying the fare, it is stuff like that for the vast majority of what is reported as 900 arrests.”
The temptation to resort to emotional
clickbait may exist in part because people are tending to grow weary with the flood of refugee stories and reports. Such compassion fatigue can also wear on support for refugee ministries as the crisis drags on.
Ioannidis reminds us of the reality for refugees: “The reason they are there is because they fear for their safety. They fled war zones. We have talked to a number of families and we have heard really tragic stories of kids that lost parents, mothers, fathers, relatives; families that fled because their children got shot by snipers and they were lucky to escape with their lives.”
AMG International works with refugees in Greece, the gateway country where 90 percent of asylum seekers enter into Europe. And especially now with the recent coup and unrest in Turkey, there has been a spike in the number of refugees entering through Greece. Ioannidis says most of the refugees are women and children.
“Our coworkers in Greece are meeting with hundreds of refugees each week, and as they help them with basic stuff, they are able to engage with them in conversation. We are also able to provide basic medical care, to start language classes, to provide education for the children, [and] to help the families with the services that we take for granted. They don’t usually have access to those, so helping them with those is allowing us to build the relationships, and that’s where we are seeing wonderful results.”
The most at-risk group of refugees, by far, is unaccompanied minors. Last year 90,000 unescorted children entered the European Union with refugee status. According to EU law enforcement, 10,000 of those kids have now disappeared, speculated to have fallen into the hands of human traffickers.
Ioannidis says, therefore, it is especially critical to reach refugee children with aid and education.
“Without help, [refugee children] face an uncertain future, especially for the ones who lost parents. They have the opportunity to become well-adjusted functioning adults, or they basically live in poverty.”
Ioannidis says these kids could also turn to extremism “because nobody has reached to them and they don’t know what to do and they just get angry with the whole system and the whole situation.”
Christians are in a unique position. Anyone can give aid and physical assistance, or support agencies that are doing so. But in addition to humanitarian efforts, Christians can bring spiritual encouragement and faith conversations to the table.
Refugees are looking for hope and answers. And Christians have a chance to start conversations about Jesus Christ and the unconditional love and grace He offers to those who call on their Heavenly Father.
“From a biblical perspective, we have to help the strangers among us. We have to show the love of Christ. It is an opportunity to share the love of Christ, because these are the nations that the Lord is bringing to us. And as we do that, we do see incredible things happen.”
You don’t have to go to Greece to impact refugees there. Ioannidis asks for prayer and support from the Body of Christ.
“I would like for people to pray for our coworkers as they deal with people who are now coming into Greece, that God would give wisdom to our coworkers as they seek to share Christ’s love and to do so in a way that opens the door for further conversation, to help people not only with the physical needs, but their spiritual needs as well. [Pray] that through this outreach, many will come to a saving knowledge of Him and that lives would be transformed,” says Ioannidis.
“Also, I would like to ask for prayer for the resources that are needed. The financial need is great for this ministry; it’s ongoing, and it’s going to be ongoing for many months to come at least. So we need the financial support of God’s people to continue to minister to the refugees, to show Christ’s love.”