New horrors in Syria prompt waves of refugees to flee

By January 31, 2013

Syria (MNN) — The recent horrors of finding yet another mass grave in Aleppo are part of what's driving more people toward Syria's borders.

At one time, when the sides were clearer, blame for atrocities fell on either the rebels or the regime. Now, after 22 months of civil war, that's no longer the case. Baptist Global Response CEO Jeff Palmer explains, "I wish I could point out who's the bad guy, who's the good guy; but that's the problem. That's why a lot of people are fleeing. Nobody knows who's who. It's just literally chaos–fear for safety, fear for their children, fear for their families and future. A lot of time it's women and children coming out, but more and more, it's the men, too,, because they've got to protect their families."

The ongoing fighting has blurred once clear lines and ravaged vital infrastructure. And the best indications are that recovery could take decades. That realization is hitting more Syrians who thought they'd stick it out in the homeland. Palmer says, "When this started over a year ago, everybody thought it was going to be short-lived. Here we are: well over a year into it, and it just continues to grow and escalate." The war's death toll had exceeded 60,000 as of January 2, 2013.

Now, the United Nations can't keep up with the "unrelenting flow" of families fleeing violence in Syria. The number of documented refugees topped 700,000. More than 3,000 crossed into Jordan on Monday alone. Palmer states, "Food is scarce. Children can't go to school. Families can't live, fearing for their lives. So, now we have more people flooding outside of the country. We have more internally displaced people inside the country, and it's just chaos."

If nothing changes, there will be over a million Internally Displaced People, and over half a million scattered throughout the border countries of Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, and Jordan. The problem, notes Palmer, is that resources are finite, and the influx is not. "For every one you see in a camp, there may be one outside a camp that nobody is touching."

When asked what BGR is doing, Palmer admitted their response was a "drop in the bucket." But that same assessment came from several UN Humanitarian aid groups as well, underscoring the scope of the crisis.

Still, BGR partners are reaching people who have been largely overlooked. "We've got about four places that we're actually touching and helping ministry partners that are able to respond. That's in several countries."

Palmer concedes the difficulty in finding people who need help, because they're everywhere. "They're setting up shop. They're putting up makeshift tents. They're living in garages of people's homes. They're finding empty storerooms and finding places to set up for their families."

The most recent relief project BGR completed was a Winter Relief drop. Since many refugees fled Syria in June, they're ill-prepared for the onset of winter. BGR partners supported 500 refugee families (about 2,500 people) by providing clothes, carpets and blankets.

Christian relief workers say God is moving in remarkable ways among the refugees. First of all, says Palmer, their partners meet needs. "Most of the work that we do goes through local partners who are of the same language and culture, but they're followers of Christ. They become the hands and feet [of Christ]: the hands…take care of people; the feet bring the Good News and the message of the Gospel."

The simple act of caring leads to questions, the sharing of faith stories, and more. "That is a demonstration of the Gospel: to show the hope of Christ by having compassion, providing blankets, warm clothing, food, and health care kits."

What's more, BGR partners have reported that these talks revealed a new understanding. The refugees know that the cycle of violence and revenge threatens to destroy their country. They're seeking answers and are finding them in Christ. Pray for true peace in Syria and that leaders will govern justly.

Click here to see how you can partner with BGR's Syrian response.


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