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Bad feelings cause serious aid lull to Syria

By May 4, 2012

Syria (MNN) — After weeks of gunfire and bombings, the United Nations has finally admitted that the three-week-old ceasefire in Syria may not be holding up, reports AFP News.

The U.N. will continue to send in observers, but the admission of a failed truce is just one more confirmation that the situation in Syria is not going away any time soon. In the meantime, refugees will continue to pile up in bordering countries, creating another large-scale crisis outside of Syria.

The refugee crisis has become a serious problem for neighboring countries. Frightened Syrians with nowhere else to go are desperately looking for help, but many organizations are not able to keep up with even basic needs.

Baptist Global Response has been sending aid through on-ground Christian partners for several months, but so few believers have helped with the funding, the ministry has had to turn down many refugees in serious need of help.

"We're looking at $400,000-500,000 in terms of need. We've already funded a lot of that, but we're looking at very, very low responses coming from folks in the United States," notes BGR's Jeff Palmer.

The humanitarian crisis is alarming, so why the silence from many would-be donors? Palmer has a few theories.

"Some situations, disasters, or refugee dilemmas will have a high profile, or they'll be in a place that people have a certain heart string attached to it, and they'll give to it. In other places, maybe there's a negative image of what's going on or from that area of the world, and so people don't respond to it as well."

Palmer adds, "Part of it is may be a negative opinion of that part of the world. …But the reality is, these are people who are fleeing their homes and fleeing their countries, walking across borders with what they can carry in their hands, and they just need the basics: food, water, shelter, clothing."

Due to a lull in funding, BGR has only been able to fund about half of the requests they've received. In a border project BGR just approved last week, there was a request for $140,000 in aid. BGR could only fund half of it. The results of that literally will mean turning people away who need just the very basics.

Palmer says they have just gotten another $140,000 request from another country. "I'm not sure exactly what we'll be able to do for that one."

The lack of response from believers who know about the crisis is unfortunate for a variety of reasons, especially considering how well-equipped BGR partners would be to respond, if only they had the funding. All of BGR's partners are local believers with significant expertise.

"They have a heart for helping people of course in their physical needs, but they have a heart also for sharing the hope that's in Christ," says Palmer. He adds, "They're able to just, in the midst of the crisis, share words of hope, encouragement, and words of testimony with folks who are fleeing."

They can't share that hope with refugees, though, if they can't first meet basic physical needs.

When asked if the donation lull had something to do with donor fatigue, Palmer said he thought it unlikely, suggesting it may have more to do with the longevity of the Syrian violence and the general stereotypes of that part of the world. But BGR is calling on believers to reconsider.

"Whatever your views of the situation, or whatever your thoughts of that part of the world, put that out of your mind and think about these as real people with real needs. That's the sad part about not having the amount of funds that we need to respond to them. It doesn't matter whether they're red, white, black, blue, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist or whatever. If people are suffering, we should be responding."

There are still plenty of needs to be met, and you can assist with them. To provide financial support, click here and give to BGR's Disaster Response Fund or the World Hunger Fund.

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