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Syrian peace talks point to Gospel opportunity

By January 29, 2016

Syria (MNN) — Today was supposed to mark the start of Syrian peace talks aimed at ending the 5-year civil war. But with continual disagreement among the major parties involved, it looks like peace is still a long time coming.

Syrian refugee children at a half-built apartment block near Reyfoun in Lebanon, close to the border with Syria, give the peace sign. The families fled Syria due to the war and are now living on a building site. (Photo: Eoghan Rice via Flickr)

Syrian refugee children at a half-built apartment block near Reyfoun in Lebanon, close to the border with Syria, give the peace sign. The families fled Syria due to the war and are now living on a building site.
(Photo: Eoghan Rice via Flickr)

Hopes were high at the start of the week, as a Special UN Envoy for Syria announced Syrian peace talks would be started today and proceed over the next six months. A national ceasefire was among the goals of these discussions, along with a transitional governing body and elections within two years.

While Syria’s governing officials agreed to “come to the table,” members of the opposition party refused to budge on certain issues. More on the Syrian peace talks here.

On-the-ground, failed Syrian peace talks mean more refugees. More refugees means an even greater need for resources and safe spaces to put them in.

According to Jeff Palmer of Baptist Global Response (BGR), failed Syrian peace talks–and the corresponding increase of displaced people–translates to increased opportunity to share Christ.

“Syria and what’s happened there…doesn’t surprise God. Nnothing surprises God,” notes Palmer. “We should step back and say, ‘What is God doing in the midst of all this? What are the opportunities to make His name known to the nations?’

“The nations are coming to our backyard. What a wonderful opportunity to make Christ known, both in word and in deed.”

Bringing peace to Syrian refugees

(Photo courtesy BGR)

(Photo courtesy BGR)

In the five years since Syria’s civil war began, the majority of the country’s pre-war population is on the run. According to the UNHCR, 13.5 million people within Syria are in need of immediate assistance.

Nearly 5 million Syrians have fled to neighboring nations. At least a million refugees risked the perilous journey to Europe in 2015 alone.

On the global stage, 26 large-scale conflicts have caused an estimated 60 million people to take flight, preferring to risk their lives on the run than stay and face certain death. Landing in either a refugee camp or on the shores of a strange new land, refugees are forever trapped in the Unknown.

When believers enter the Unknown with these refugees, the Lord opens doors for change.

BGR_Syrian refugees kids

You can help change circumstances for refugee children whose families are trying to find safety.
(Photo, caption courtesy BGR)

“The Bible commands us to open the door for the strangers and treat them as one of our own,” Palmer observes. “We do this because of the compassion of Christ in us, and we do this because we want to make Christ known to them.”

Unless you’re reading this from Iraq or Syria, it’s likely at least some refugees are heading your way. “Find out who they are and reach out to them,” urges Palmer.

“They’re real people with real needs, just like us, and they have the greatest need that anybody could have–that you and I have: to know Jesus Christ and to hear the Gospel.”

It’s as simple as being a friend, says Palmer. Invite refugee families over for a meal. Offer to help them learn where certain stores are located, or teach them how to cook foods that they aren’t familiar with. Or, you could help refugees enroll their children in school.

“You can give a lot of things…go and give some of your time and your life,” he suggests.

“Develop that relationship, find out they’re real people. They’re not all terrorists. In fact, very few of them would be.”

(Graphic courtesy BGR)

(Graphic courtesy BGR)

In short: step out of your comfort zone and step into the opportunity God is laying before you.

“You watch the news, and you hear all kinds of things…. We hear that from folks: ‘I’m afraid.’ But here’s what I remind everyone we talk to: we’re people of faith.

“We’re not people of fear; we’re people of faith.”

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