Syria (MNN/CAM) — The crisis in Syria has created a flood of refugees. According to the United Nations, the number
fleeing the regime's wrath has risen by several thousand in the past few days
and now tops 34,000.
Their most recent numbers show
that hundreds of thousands are thought to be displaced within Syria. Bill Bray with Christian
Aid Mission says, "Almost every day, we're getting new
reports of increasing numbers of refugees and increasing sacrifice being made
by the Christian community in the surrounding countries to reach out."
Most of the poor
refugees, made up of nominal Christian and other minorities, are fleeing to
neighboring countries where the
reception has been chilly. "They are trying to contain the refugee
crisis, and displaced persons within Syria and not welcoming them across their
borders. All the borders are mined and armed–protected. They don't
want a huge rush of refugees from Syria coming into their countries. They don't
want to set up great refugee camps and so forth."
Bray says their
team has been responding to the building humanitarian crisis since last June.
Their first inkling of how bad it was going to be was when "the leaders that we assist kept
saying, 'Can we have permission to divert the funds that you've been giving for
evangelism or other causes that were earmarked…. Can we start using this to aid
the Christian refugees that are coming across the border?' They asked for more help, and we've been
sending more and more help."
Why? "The Christian community is often
neglected in the distribution of aid to the refugees. And the host governments
in Turkey and Jordan and Lebanon really are not welcoming these refugees
and don't want to recognize them." Bray adds that it's not just Christians, but also "the Bedouins,
the gypsies–there are minority groups that are neglected in aid
distribution." As a result, "An amazing number of Bedouins are coming
to believers for help," says the Christian Aid Mission spokesperson.
The good news is that more help is
getting in. But the bad news is that things are getting worse. Even as
international pressure grows on President Assad al-Bashar, the government response
has been bruising. For most
Non-Government Organizations, that means no aid in the country. For informal response like Christian Aid,
it's quite a different story. "We
have a vast network in all of hose countries.
They're already in place. There are missionaries that are doing covert evangelism; they're
reaching out to their communities. They're seeing the needs, and the heart of Christian compassion is in
This is an opportunity to show
the love of Christ to people who are suffering terribly, says Bray. First, the physical needs. "There's
a lot of need for anything that provides warmth. Fuel oil, mattresses, warm
clothes, blankets, shoes, because they're fleeing with what they've got on
their backs." Feeding and housing one refugee family costs
about $130 a week in temporary shelters — the cost of food alone is $70 a week.
When believers help, the inevitable "why" is answered with "Christ." As a result, "They very much want Arabic Bibles, CDs,
Christian literature. There's a great demand to receive spiritual aid as well
as material aid."
"We are not really prepared to
help these people," says a local missionary leader, "but we cannot
keep our doors closed when we see our brothers and sisters in need–whether
they are from Christian or Muslim background."
"God uses times of crisis to
soften hearts to the gospel," added the Christian Aid staff spokesman.
"This may be a time of harvest among Muslim and Christian refugees. God is
sovereign. He cares for Muslims. Countries in the Middle East are going through
great upheaval. Now many Muslims are turning to Christ. Maybe the long turmoil
in Syria is God's way of bringing this about."
Bray concludes, "They
can pray for strength for the Christian community and wisdom in dealing with
the government and local police officials. A lot of these people are illegal
immigrants, they're undocumented; there are no jobs for them so we need to pray
for the Christian community as they try to integrate these refugees into their
churches and into the community."
Christian Aid has set up a special
emergency fund: Gift Code 400REF. Check
our Featured Links Section for details.