International (MNN) — 200,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan were told by text message last week that their food rations were being cut.
The United Nations’ World Food Program sent the message as a last resort when no major donors stepped forward to fund the program further.
As startling as that is, it’s not much better anywhere else. In just 8 months, more than 350,000 refugees have crossed into Europe. More than half of Syria’s population has fled their homes or been killed since the crisis began 4 years ago. The countries receiving them are cash-strapped.
Tasos Ioannidis with AMG International says, ”Some countries have talked about closing borders so that they [the refugees] would not be able to continue and enter their territory. They’re concerned about the economic cost from the refugees and also a fear that somehow the refugees that are coming in are going to be a problem for their local communities.”
The numbers are overwhelming, adds Ioannidis. “One report says that there are 4 million of them on the Turkish coast waiting their turn to cross over. Every day there are more than 3000-4000 that are coming into Greece.”
Without a plan, the crisis has rapidly developed into a humanitarian emergency with thousands of people stranded at various transit points and borders from Greece to Hungary. “They are hoping to be processed as quickly as possible. Their goal is to travel from the Greek Islands to Athens and then head north to the border with Skopje (Macedonia), and then continue on to northern Europe, reach Germany, go to all the different Northern European countries.”
The European Union is being forced to respond. They’re now calling for mandatory refugee quotas in an effort to cope with the hundreds of thousands fleeing war in the Middle East and North Africa. 28 bloc countries are being asked to split up, assist, and take in 160,000 refugees across the EU.
Yet in the midst of overwhelming tragedy, in God’s economy, an unprecedented opportunity for hope is emerging. ”We are trying to provide basic material to those who are suffering,” says Ioannidis. “We are partnering with others in the small Greek evangelical community, and we are providing basic food supplies. We are able to provide a couple of days’ worth of supplies to people who are traveling.”
Why only a couple of days’ worth of supplies? Ioannidis responds, “They are carrying them as they are walking or traveling north. That’s all they can take with them, so we try to provide basic food, then provide basic medical care.” An AMG medical van takes basic medical care to the refugees at the northern border of Greece when they can’t come in for help. “They provide supplies, water, basic food, and basic medical supplies so that these people can survive.”
The journey is a hard one. Hope can make it endurable for one more day. Ioannidis says their team is open about the reason why they’re there. “We have the opportunity to very tangibly, very practically share with the people that are going through that they are being helped because there are people who love them in the name of Christ, and that plants the seed.“
From there, it’s a matter of prayer. “We don’t know how God is going to use the seed that is sown, in this manner, by providing tangible help, but we’re praying as they continue their way, that the seed that is planted will be cultivated and bear fruit through further contact as they continue their journey.”
For that matter, he adds, “Pray for the workers that are serving every day because this is an emotionally-draining activity, so we need to be praying for more volunteers and for those who volunteer that the Lord will be using them. We need to be praying for the refugees that God will be working in their heart.”