Syria (MNN) — More than 2.5 million people in Syria can't go home because of violent, ongoing fighting, a United Nations refugee agency said yesterday.
"This is a very conservative estimate," said Melissa Fleming, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). "People are moving, really on the run, hiding. They are difficult to count and access."
More than 407,000 refugees have either registered or are awaiting registration in UNHCR refugee camps in the neighboring countries of Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, and Iraq, added Fleming. And don't forget about the flurry of activity in recent days.
Over the past week, more than 4,000 Syrians fled to Jordan–the highest outflow there in two months. Another 9,000 Syrians crossed into Turkey, and growing numbers of Kurdish nationals are fleeing to Iraq, now the home of 50,000 Syrian refugees.
What are Christians doing about it?
"We're really challenging the church to reach those refugees," says a ministry leader helped by Christian Aid Mission in the regions surrounding Syria. "Not just in providing aid materials, but that they would show God's love to those people."
Christian Aid helps indigenous ministries provide Syrian refugees with essentials like food, cooking units, blankets and shelter.
"Plus, we're providing milk for the children," adds the ministry worker. "That's one of the big needs because about 65% of the refugees there are children."
In addition to providing relief aid, believers make a point of spending one-on-one time with refugees. In Iraq, churches take turns on a regular basis inviting refugees to a church meeting followed by a meal. They also go daily to the refugee camps to clean, construct temporary housing, share the Gospel, and distribute food.
"They make sure that they speak with them, spend time, play with the kids," the worker says, "just that they will feel [that] somebody cares about them."
According to the ministry leader, refugees must go to the offices of other organizations who are giving aid, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, in order to receive help. That's something that sets their operations apart: ministries helped by Christian Aid make a point of being directly involved in refugees' lives.
He describes how this impacts refugees: "What we're hearing from them, the feedback is: 'We feel that you're giving us from all over your heart, with love, with care."
Their actions and regular demonstration of compassion is also changing what many refugees thought about Christ-followers.
"Some of them, or maybe most of them, had the wrong idea about Christ and about Christianity," the worker explains. Refugees can now see Christ's love expressed through Christian workers.
"We praise God we have this opportunity to reach them, not just with the aid but spiritually," he says.
Pray for protection over Christian workers who are helping refugees. Ask God to give them wisdom.
"In some areas… it's dangerous just to be with the refugees," the worker explains. "With your prayers, we can still be alive and do God's work, and we can make the Great Commission a daily commitment."
You can support ministry workers in one volatile region by clicking here.