Middle East (MNN) — It’s not even March, and Europe has already played host to over 100,000 refugees fleeing the Middle East by boat, reports the United Nations. Yet, this number is relatively small compared to the mass exodus expected this spring.
What’s Happening and What’s Coming
Al Goff with Global Aid Network (GAiN) explains, “When Spring hits, and it gets much nicer and sunny again, because it rains a lot this time of year, there’s white capping. But there will be millions, literally millions, coming over as quickly as possible. Estimates are up to a range of around 3 million in Turkey, waiting to come in.”
Surprisingly, about 80% of the refugees coming into Greece are young men.
“What’s happening is: different factions are fighting in the Middle East, they will conscript a young man at gun point into fighting for them. So families are as quickly as possible sending away their young men to Europe, both to try to get a job and to get them out of being conscripted into military service for ISIS or the Syrian government, or whatever group is trying to get them to fight for them,” explains Goff.
Unfortunately, the bad weather is providing a different opportunity for travel. During these dangerous months on the water, smugglers actually lower their prices for travel. Because of this, more women and children take to the waters in efforts to reach Greece. But the lower travel rates aren’t necessarily a good thing in this situation.
“The women and children that are coming, very frankly, are putting themselves in real danger. And then, they’re on a raft with probably 90%…men,” says Goff. “So it’s really bad for the women and children that are trying to come over as you can imagine.”
But it’s not just Iraqis and Syrians making the trip to Europe. People come from Libya, Afghanistan, Algeria, and other places, too. However, once these refugees land in Greece, only certain people groups are allowed to continue forward. The others who’ve been denied further passage have no choice but to camp out where they are.
At the moment, GAiN is working on two fronts: one in the Middle East and one in Greece.
In the Middle East, GAiN is working to stabilize refugees by providing the basics of food, water, and blankets. Most of the time, refugees come to Turkey and other places with the hope of returning home.
But as the war continues, many refugees realize that their hopes for returning home are slim to none. At this point, many decide to continue into to Europe, usually through Greece.
In Greece, GAiN is working with various groups to help move refugees from staging camps, usually on Greek islands like Lesvos, to the main land in order to continue their journey into countries taking in refugees.
In the midst of all this danger and chaos, an incredible thing is happening: people are turning to Jesus. GAiN volunteers are not pushing Jesus onto refugees. Instead, because the way volunteers are caring and loving refugees is so radical, refugees are coming to volunteers and asking, “Why are you caring for me?”
“When you love people extravagantly well, they are touched,” says Goff. “This is that opportunity to share the love of Jesus. And they do ask. Oh my goodness, do they ask! And you know, there’s a wonderful story we tell them–tell our volunteers to inform them that, truthfully, ‘I’m not here because I wanted to help you. I’m here because I work for a refugee and He sent me to help you.’ Then we tell them the story of Jesus, the story of when they [Herod and his government] were trying to kill Him, and His family took Him to another country–to Egypt, to get Him to safety.”
How to Help
At this moment, prayer is vital for GAiN’s work with refugees. Please pray for the work GAiN is doing, pray for the safety and providence of these refugees. But also, pray for ISIS and all those who are terrorizing individuals in the Middle East. Only Jesus can change their hearts and end the atrocities in the Middle East.
Furthermore, GAiN needs manpower to keep up its ministry and work with refugees. If you’re able, please consider volunteering with GAiN. Any length of time is appreciated. To learn more, click here.
And finally, would you consider financially supporting GAiN? Just like anything else, it takes money to buy supplies in order to help others. To donate, click here.
To learn more or to ask questions, contact GAiN at 1-800-778-7806.