International (MNN) — Ever wonder why you don’t hear about religious persecution very often in mainstream news? According to Pierre Houssney of Horizons International, it’s related to compassion fatigue amidst a flood of overlapping crisis narratives.
Horizons is particularly concerned with refugees, who suffer from these problems more than most.
“In the context of this compassion fatigue that happens when media is covering a certain crisis, there is sometimes a distraction,” Houssney explains. “Sometimes the refugee crisis is distracting from other things that are happening that are similar but very different.”
One example is the difference between refugees fleeing from religious persecution and refugees fleeing from violence or economic problems.
“It’s like a mini refugee crisis for them amid a sea of [other] refugees that are going other places,” Houssney says. “When refugee-receiving countries in Europe or the US are flooded with all these cases of refugees that [have been displaced] because of major world events, it’s clouding their vision to be able to see the genuine cases of religious persecution that are happening.”
In other words, with so many issues weighing on aid groups that want to help refugees, it’s hard to determine urgency. Refugees from Syria, Jordan, or Egypt who are “in dire need of getting out of their house and out of their country because they could be killed for their faith” are getting lost among millions of other refugee applications.
When applications don’t get processed, refugees get trapped in “transition countries.” That leaves aid groups like Horizons or local indigenous churches in the difficult position of acting as a last-resort safety net that finds and cares for them.
Creating an Aid Network
Horizons hopes they can help. Their 14 branches throughout Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Turkey, and Egypt are working with local churches to provide shelter and opportunities for refugees in transition.
In other words, they’re creating a network for ministry and aid.
“You’ve got a local church here, you’ve got a local organization that has a broader network, and then you’ve got supporting partners from the outside,” Houssney says. “Some of this is just finding creative solutions for each case… We’re just trying to find creative places where these people can stay, creative ways where we can find them employment, and then also ways that we can help with their legal status so that we can be getting them where they need to go.”
Reaching Refugees At Home
Some of our readers might not live in the Middle East, but there are still many ways to get involved. In fact, many Muslim refugees are already in the United States, but Houssney laments that “the Church is just kind of blind to them.”
That’s why Horizons has training programs to teach believers how to reach out to Muslims in their own areas.
“We find that when churches gain a heart for that and have a few people within the church that are engaged in loving Muslim people in the community and sharing Christ’s love with them, then that church is ready to accept refugees and really be able to care for them, maybe even help them establish ministries among refugees in the United States or Europe.”
The first step towards ministering to displaced and hurting individuals is paying attention.
“Find other people in your community that are interested in reaching Muslims, whether in your church or other churches,” Houssney says. “In most cases, there are Muslims in your community, and if you start forming relationships with them, then things will start to happen. You’ll start to find other Christians that are that are caring for them.”
Not sure how to start a conversation? Horizons can help.
“We have a website called engagingislam.org that is completely dedicated to training events and training materials for helping people engage with Muslims in their community,” Houssney says.
Pray that God opens your eyes to the people who might be waiting for you to extend a friendly hand and a listening ear.
“Most Muslims are already feeling strange when they’re in the West,” Houssney explains. “They’re already feeling like they’re rejected. They assume that Christians don’t really want to deal with them. And a lot of the time, they’re right. You’d be the exception to that rule.
“Be a representative of Christ to that person in your community.”
Header photo courtesy of Horizons International.