Syria to talk peace in Geneva

By February 5, 2014
(Photo courtesy Vision Beyond Borders)

(Photo courtesy Vision Beyond Borders)

Syria (MNN) — The Syrian government will attend the next round of peace talks in Geneva, despite earlier attempts falling apart in Montreux, Switzerland.

Although it’s good news, it has done nothing to stem the onslaught of violence tearing the country apart. Even as the announcement was made, the Aleppo Media Center said roughly 30 people were killed in a series of government air strikes.

Thousands are streaming over the borders into neighboring countries like Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan when there’s been a lull in fighting. Syrian refugees are now estimated to make up 10% of Jordan’s population.

Their numbers will add to the over three million people in hard-to-reach and besieged areas in Syria. At the same time, food security issues continue to worsen with almost 10 million people vulnerable. Dyann Romeijn, spokeswoman for Vision Beyond Borders, says they recently sent a team to support partners working in the refugee camps.

(Photo courtesy Baptist Global Response)

(Photo courtesy Baptist Global Response)

Conditions are beyond dismal. Romeijn says, “The basic need of food is not being met. I just saw a report from the refugee camps inside Syria that there are deaths from starvation now. It’s very, very difficult to get aid into those camps.”

Once the VBB team arrived on the ground, they found themselves dealing with a snowstorm. Romeijn explains, “They actually received several feet of snow;  they’ve got people that are living in tents…very difficult circumstances that they’re in.” Many of the refugees fled the conflict during warm months, leaving with nothing but the clothes on their backs. They’re ill-prepared for the cold. Mud makes the camps even more miserable, and some are in need of sensible shoes.

VBB found an athletic shoe supplier who agreed to provide thousands of pairs of shoes at reduced prices. On this last trip, the team distributed 4,500 pairs of shoes as they traveled to Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. “We’ve actually sent in one 40-foot container, and then we’re working on another container,” says Romeijn.

Vision Beyond Borders Director Patrick Klein wrote, “15 minutes from the Syrian border, people were lined up, waiting for supplies. Many came from Damascus with their cars crammed with whatever belongings they could fit inside. VBB distributed materials to over 200 Christian families, providing blankets, mattresses, small electric heaters, gloves, scarves, socks, and food.”

(Photo courtesy Vision Beyond Borders)

(Photo courtesy Vision Beyond Borders)

Klein went on to share, “On another day, less than five miles from the Syrian border, the team visited another camp in Beka Valley. Conditions were muddy from the previous snowfall as we started distributing supplies from the back of a truck. About 150 people gathered and were given a wood stove with piping, mattresses, blankets, hats, gloves, socks, and scarves. The children were excited to get anything: a plastic bag, packaging from the supplies, or even a small piece of wire. We had the honor of serving 185 Muslim families that day.”

Here’s something else to note, says Romeijn: “People are very, very open to the Gospel. They’ve kind of become disenfranchised with Islam.” The violence is mainly Shiite Muslim vs Sunni Muslim with other offshoots joining the fray.

There’s also another issue emerging: emotional trauma. Romeijn clarifies, “It’s not people that have had to live in the jungle and have had to live a refugee-type of life their entire lives. These are people that had a completely normal lifestyle, similar to what we would experience here [in the States]. They’ve had everything torn out from under them.” This means that a shoulder to cry on, an ear to hear may be nearly as valuable a commodity as food. “When they’ve had everything taken from them, to be able to be there as a true support and to shine the light of Jesus–that true love that’s shone through us to these other people, that’s touching lives!”

VBB is asking you to pray for the Syrian refugees. The physical needs are overwhelming and above all, they are in great need of eternal salvation and the hope and life that is theirs through Jesus Christ. Romeijn says, “We need for people to pray, but we also need people to give. And then, there’s also a need for people to go, simply to be the hands and feet of Jesus.”

Click here if you want more details.

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