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Syrian life gives volunteers new perspective

SYRIA (BP) -- Lisa* never wanted to have anything to do with the Middle East. She felt that way even though her husband William* dealt with the region at his job and kept telling her how wonderful it was.

‘Devastating milestone’ reached amid Syrian refugee crisis

BEIRUT, Lebanon -- As Lebanon registered its 1 millionth Syrian refugee in early April, the United Nations labeled it a "devastating milestone." [QUOTE@right@180="Humanly speaking we are unable to respond adequately, yet God is very clearly opening the door for His Church to respond...."
-- Don Alan*, a Christian worker]Four years after opening its borders to Syrians fleeing war, Lebanon struggles to hold the weight of the new population that calls it home. The small nation alone holds nearly half the 2.5 million registered refugees who have fled from Syria to five neighboring countries -- Lebanon, Turkey, Cyprus, Jordan and Iraq. And 2,500 new names are being added to the total in Lebanon each day, but that does not touch the total of people affected by the war. The UN estimates that a total of 9 million refugees -- documented and undocumented -- have fled Syria, with 6.5 million displaced within the war-torn country. "The key word is 'registered,' meaning registered with UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees)," Rick Gladson*, a Christian worker serving among Syrians in Lebanon, said. "I think everyone in the country would tell you there are many more than 1 million Syrian refugees here. "It's likely that every fourth person in Lebanon is Syrian," he said. "I think people are starting to recognize that there is no 'reset' button for the Syrian crises. If the war miraculously ended tomorrow, the likelihood that the millions of displaced Syrians would just return home is slim to nil. In many ways, this conflict has permanently altered the shape of the region." Describing what a country roughly the size of Connecticut is like with such a high number of refugees, Gladson explained that every major intersection has a few Syrian beggars moving from car to car "with an outstretched hand" hoping to sell an item or receive help. Don Alan*, a Christian worker living in the region, said in Lebanon, Syrian refugees live everywhere and anywhere -- in places that people in the West would condemn and places "that you would never imagine anyone living" -- and not just one or two but dozens. In the midst of that, relief agencies struggle to keep up with the vast need. The UN's World Food Programme has cut its food aid to Syrians by a fifth because of lack of funds, according to BBC News.

Syria refugee numbers soar as overwhelming needs abound

AMMAN, Jordan (BP) -- A Christian worker involved in ministry among Syrian refugees makes a heartbreaking observation: "Every family has a tragic story to tell of their journey that got them to where they are now." Don Alan*, the Christian worker, is trying to determine how to respond to the needs he confronts among Syrian refugees -- needs that are outpacing the funding his work receives. And "that is a tragedy, that is sadness," Alan said. Even so, he sees signs of God's hand and God's plan unfolding in Syria's tragic events. "For the first time we have been able to sit and share the Gospel with Syrian families, and they are responding," Alan said. Alan seeks to point to the "only hope" that can be found in Jesus. "He is the only one who can bring light to the darkest situation, and Syrians are in their darkest hour. "I am afraid that much of the world is not really keen to turn the light on to see what it looks like," Alan said, "and to me that reality is terrible.... "Jesus commands us to help those who are poor and destitute and forgotten by the world. We have a responsibility to share His love in a way that is a cup of water, a bowl of food, ways that meet their needs today -- so that they can face tomorrow with hope and a future." According to Antonio Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the world has not seen an outflow of refugees "at such a frightening rate since the Rwandan genocide almost 20 years ago." UNHCR officers report that 6,000 Syrians a day flee to nearby Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey and Egypt to escaping the horrors of the Mideast nation's civil war. To date, the UNHCR has registered nearly 2 million people who have fled Syria, while an estimated 5 million internally displaced persons remain within Syria's borders. Host countries are beginning to feel the strain of the magnitude of refugees, with Iraq now closing its borders to those fleeing Syria. Guterres, in an address to the UN Security Council on July 16, issued a plea for the international community to keep their borders open to Syrians. He fears catastrophic results if Egypt, Turkey or Jordan also choose to close their borders. "We cannot go on treating the impact of the Syrian crisis as a simple humanitarian emergency," Guterres said. Baptist Global Response (BGR) has joined numerous non-governmental organizations in response to the overwhelming needs of Syrian refugees. Jeff Palmer, BGR executive director, reported that through local partnerships nearly $700,000 worth of assistance has been mobilized, supplying food packets, hygiene kits and temporary shelter. "We have been able to assist response in four of the surrounding countries with refugees and several places inside the country with internally displaced persons," Palmer said. A majority of the aid supplied through BGR has gone to people in areas that Palmer said "have fallen through the cracks of assistance from other groups." Zaatari, a refugee camp in Jordan, is home to 160,000 Syrians, making it the fifth largest city in Jordan. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees office, women and children make up three-fourths of the registered refugees. The camp also hosts Iraqis, Somalis, Afghanis and Sudanese who had fled their countries to Syria in search of a better life. "We are not only watching the destruction of a country, but also of its people," UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos said. Alan, the Christian worker, said one of the foremost needs is for passionate prayer for Syrians to "really hear that there is hope, when your world is shattered around you and when there is no clear answer or direction in your country. There is a way that is very clearly marked and set out before people." With the need so great around him, Alan remembers the times that Jesus fed large crowds of people, such as when His disciples had only had a few fish and loaves of bread to feed thousands.

2nd VIEW: Beyond churches, Sudan regime targets foreign aid workers

LONDON (BP) -- Security forces in Sudan reportedly are focusing on the removal of foreigners who work for hundreds of foreign aid organizations within its borders.

Beyond churches, Sudan regime targeting foreign aid workers

LONDON (BP) -- Security forces in Sudan reportedly are focusing on the removal of foreigners who work for hundreds of foreign aid organizations within its borders. The concern, raised by two workers in statements to Baptist Press, follows a report on religious freedom in predominantly Muslim Sudan released July 9 by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Prayer, amid Egypt’s upheaval, called ‘precipice of opportunity’

CAIRO (BP) -- The day after Mohamed Morsi was deposed as Egypt's first democratically elected president, the country's streets once again filled with millions of Egyptians exercising their right to protest. Now, violent and deadly demonstrations continue both in support of the ousted leader and in opposition. Since the military took control, the number of deaths associated with the protests was approaching 100 as of July 8 while more than 1,000 had been injured. Morsi served as Egypt's head of state only one year -- elected June 30, 2012, and deposed on July 3. Although uncertainty remains, Egyptians continue to observe the unfolding events with hope. Dr. M. Ibrahim*, an American-Egyptian Christian, considers the news "amazing," saying this "has never happened before."

‘Pray’ — military ousts Egypt’s Morsi

CAIRO (BP) -- One year after becoming president of Egypt, Mohammed Morsi was ousted from power Wednesday (July 3) by the military, calling to memory the removal of his predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, as a result of Arab Spring protests.