USA (MNN) — In 2003, the world prepared for a refugee crisis as the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq began. The swell of refugees didn't happen right away. But now, there are 4.5 million refugees and internally displaced Iraqis who need help. They're finding help in Jordan, Turkey, Europe and now the United States.
Bethany Christian Services is just one organization that's helping an estimated 12,000 refugees from Iraq. They'll be helping a few of those families through their refugee resettlement program.
Bethany's Jotham Ippel says violence is the main problem forcing many of these people out of the country. "You've seen a lot of people who either have been targeted because of their connection to the U.S. effort and serving as translators, or perhaps they are families or minority groups who are Kurds or Christians or Chaldeans. Those types of groups have been targeted by the violence."
Ippel describes how Bethany is helping. "Our role is to help provide an initial connection for them to help them get housing and food, get connected into schools, start English classes, get medical appointments, find a job and really help them get on their own feet."
Because Bethany is a Christian organization, they're looking for help from a specific segment of society. Eppel says, "We ask churches to get involved. We just feel it's the best connection for people because it offers them a network of support, and because it's in keeping with a Christian call to welcome the stranger and to do so without strings attached."
While the program isn't overtly evangelistic, Ippel acknowledges caring for them gives Christians an opportunity to talk about their faith when asked.
Bethany says there's a need for families in West Michigan and around the country to help with refugees heading to the U.S. "There are Iraqi families. There are families coming from Burma right now, which many of them are minorities and Christians. And also, we're expecting a new group [of refugees] from Bhutan who are ethnically Nepalese."