Syria (MNN) — Syrian refugees are back in the headlines as Europe struggles to deal with its Mediterranean migrant crisis.
Shipwrecks have killed nearly 1,800 migrants so far this year; many were Syrian refugees. According to the International Organization for Migration, that number is 30 times higher than last year over the same period of time.
Yet amid the ongoing trauma, an International Mission Board (IMB) strategist says doors are opening like never before.
“The worst humanitarian crisis of our day is opening doors among peoples we have never had access to before,” IMB strategy leader James Keath* told the Baptist Press (BP).
“We are finding not just broken lives but open hearts.”
Syrian refugees are currently the world’s largest displaced population. Approximately 12.2 million Syrians have been displaced, either by the civil war or ISIS.
Some 7.6 million are still within Syria’s borders, while nearly 4 million have fled to neighboring countries. As more of those host countries “close their doors” to Syrian refugees, despite migrants flee to Europe.
Despite the great need, many agencies have noted a steep decline in the financial support of Syrian refugee relief and development projects. It seems “compassion fatigue” is setting in–a gradual lessening of sympathy for tragedy and suffering over time.
Some believers are fighting compassion fatigue and persevering in faith. BP reports continued support for Syrian refugees from U.S. Southern Baptists through BGR.
“I just really felt a burden that the folks in Iraq and Syria–those persecuted Christians and minorities–needed food and water and shelter and medical care more than we needed our building, even though we do need our building,” Pastor Curtis Pace told BP.
Pastor Pace shepherds the New Bethel Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Last fall, church members sent their Sunday morning offerings to support BGR’s Syrian Refugee Project. BGR partners are providing food parcels, hygiene kits, and the hope of Christ to families in need.
Normally, the collection would’ve been used to fund New Bethel’s building project.
With financial support from churches like New Bethel, and individual Christians, Syrian pastors are able to continue their ministry to internally-displaced people.
“I am staying…I am staying for the church, to keep the message of Jesus as a light for the lost and frightened. [And] I am staying because the harvest is plentiful,” one Baptist pastor told BP.
In this article, *Pastor Ziyad shares how the Lord is working through Syria’s crisis to bring people to His side.
Another Christian worker in the Middle East tells BP, “We have a God-given moment in history. Will we be cowards and shrink back, or will we play the role that God is calling us to? I pray that you [the church] will stand with us as we respond to this window of opportunity that we have been privileged to be a part of.”
* Name changed for security