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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 escape 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. Yet Jesus took the little they had, multiplied it and met a huge need.

“Maybe that’s what God is doing, building our faith in the midst of the crisis, asking us to be faithful with the little He has given us and offering it,” Alan said. “Jesus is saying, ‘Trust me to use it, to touch hundreds and thousands.'”

Alan suggested this crisis should shake the body of Christ, as if Jesus is saying, “My bride, I want you to be active and alive in the world. I don’t want you to hide in your churches and hide in your little communities, because that’s not what I have called you to.

“I have called you to engage, yes engage in the midst of danger, engage in the midst of bullets and hurt and pain and things that we can’t solve.”

Ways to pray:

— For the many internationally displaced peoples of Syria — pray they may encounter the love and peace of Jesus Christ within the camps and the countries they have made their temporary homes.

— That there will be peace in the land

— For BGR workers and partners and others aid workers to have wisdom and knowledge as to the best places and methods to minister to the millions in need.
*Names changed for security purposes. Eden Nelson is a writer for the International Mission Board based in the Middle East. Baptist Global Response is on the Internet at www.goBGR.com, with volunteer and donation information. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

    About the Author

  • Eden Nelson