Fleeing disaster: Syrian refugees

By April 5, 2013

Syria (MNN) — March's death toll broke 6,000, making it the deadliest month in Syria's two-year conflict. According to the United Nations, the conflict so far has cost 70,000 people their lives.

The violence created a wave of refugees pouring out of the country seeking safety in bordering Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey.

Recent fierce fighting sent more people scrambling in a staggering escalation. Last month, United Nations reported that more than 121,000 refugees registered in just one week–a jump of more than 10%. Just a week earlier, the U.N. announced the number of registered refugees had reached 1 million–an average of 8,000 a day in February.

During the past 18 months, Christians partnering with Baptist Global Response poured almost $300,000 into Syrian refugee relief, with most of that providing food, shelter, and cold-weather needs. With the crisis intensifying, BGR Executive Director Jeff Palmer says he expects as much as $400,000 will be needed over the next few months, with $250,000 being directed toward relief efforts inside Syria.

We spoke with a Baptist Global Response Field partner in Turkey who says things are deteriorating fast. He read a recent report that defined just how bad it's getting. "The refugees are in such bad shape in the refugee camp that they're willing to go back to the war zone. That's how desperate the situation is! People are lost for a place of safety, for a place of basic living."

The field partner goes on to add, "The reality is: there will always be a place where they can run to, whether it is inside the country or outside. There are always those pockets of safety. But it's not enough. People still need the basic necessities of life. That's where we come in and walk alongside them, and then give them hope."

"We have had four project sites, with three being outside the country and one inside," Palmer explains. "Now, because of the deepening crisis in the country, we feel compelled to mobilize more resources through trusted partners inside Syria, while still supporting work in the refugee areas in Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq."

Those initiatives will focus on staple foods, medicine and hygiene supplies, shelter, heaters and oil, clothing, blankets, mattresses, carpets, and opportunities to help families start micro-businesses.

Work inside Syria will be dangerous, and BGR does not at this time project using many volunteers in the country. Palmer urges people to pray for relief workers and partners helping with the response and, especially, for the Syrians who are suffering. "Workers that are going in and out and around those areas need wisdom and knowledge to really minister to those who are in need, who have lost everything, then the wisdom to share the right word of hope at the right time."

The BGR field partner echoes the opportunity. He spoke to one businessman who fled the bombings and shootings. The man said the uncertainty has given way to deeper introspection. "'When we were busy and everything was going well, and we were running, making money (like everyone else) and living our lives, we never thought of God. But now, in this situation like this, we think of God. It makes us reevaluate our lives, and it gives us hope to think of God,'" which, this partner says, is the time to be the hands and feet of Christ. He explains, "Part of God helping them is us standing beside them and providing those basic things."

Pray, pray, and pray, says Palmer. It is a crisis. There is uncontrolled chaos in and around Syria. "Pray for them [(BGR partners] to be bold, too. This is a great time for truth to be proclaimed and much more effective if it comes from them. Pray for them to have wisdom and opportunity" to share Christ.

You can help Syrian refugees and IDPs by donating to BGR's Syria relief fund.

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