International (MNN) — There’s a saying that goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”
It seems most applicable to the heart-wrenching image of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi lying face down on a Turkish beach. His family was desperate to leave Syria. In their flight, disaster struck and resulted in the deaths of nine others fleeing in the same boat, including Aylan’s 5-year-old brother and his mother.
Though shocking, the image clearly illustrated the plight of those caught in the conflicts raging in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Africa. What’s more, the world finally bore witness to the largest displacement of people since World War II. Jeff Palmer with Baptist Global Response reminds us, “As sad as this is, this has been going on for several years– the flooding of refugees into different places, especially out of Syria now.” In fact, he says, “Do remember there [are] 10-12 million still displaced that are in Syria, that are in northern Iraq, that are in Turkey, that are in Lebanon, Jordan, and other places, as well.”
What are they running from? The answers are as varied as the people. There are Central Asian, Middle Eastern, Iranian, and Afghan refugees all searching for the same thing: safety. “They want to go to a place where they can raise their families with dignity and not have to worry about a group like ISIS or al-Shabaab or al-Qaeda or the next tribal war lord coming in, killing their children, taking their things, driving them out, or threatening their families.”
Europe has been the main destination for these waves of people. Greece and Turkey are the gateway to what’s called the “refugee highway.” Palmer explains, “There’s a couple of places in Europe where typically refugees have entered for years and years. One is through Greece because of those water routes going in; another is through France for those that come out of North Africa.”
Europe’s leaders are cooperating to relieve the pressure on Greece, Italy, and Hungary. Germany, France, and Britain responded by offering to take thousands in. But for how long? Money is still tight. and anti-immigrant sentiment is alive and well where there are still 17.4 million unemployed.
Yet, urban refugees are among the fastest-growing population segment globally. In this environment, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees can’t always provide services, protection, or support as easily as it can in a camp. What it means is: people get overlooked, says Palmer. “We still are working with the programs that we had in the European Union where we’re doing some refugee centers, processing and helping them, in terms of ‘getting into life:’ language learning, job skills, and things, as they move on.”
BGR is also partnering with the local church in the home countries, Palmer adds, “doing projects with food, shelter, water, heating needs for the winter, blankets, weather proofing, and heating oil; things like that will be very important for those families.”
Christ is turning persecution into an opportunity to spread His love and His Word, and to grow His kingdom. “We’re doing it in a way to help provide food shelter, skills, and things that people need to transition into new places, new lives; but we’re also doing it in a way to make the Truth and the Love and the message of Christ known to those folks that we’re working with.”
It’s great that the world has been galvanized into action by one pitiful image. Pray that the followers of Christ would not become weary of this refugee crisis. The Bible is clear on why we should be helping the marginalized. Click here to get involved. Together, we can turn “one of the greatest crises of our time” into a victory shout.