Syria entered its fifth year of conflict in March with the grim report that an estimated 220,000 people have been killed since fighting began in early 2011. In addition, registered refugee numbers soon will hit the 4 million mark, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Amid such trauma, Christians continue to have unprecedented opportunities to share the Good News. "The worst humanitarian crisis of our day is opening doors among peoples we have never had access to before, and we are finding not just broken lives but open hearts," said James Keath, Southern Baptist International Mission Board (IMB) strategy leader for North Africa and the Middle East.
Keath and other Christian workers live in the midst of the Syrian refugees' daily suffering, but they are passionate about the reality of God's love and an openness to share that love.
Thousands of Syrians, weary from violence as well as dwindling food and medical supplies, continue to flee their country for a safer life elsewhere. Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan have set up camps along their borders.
Many relief agencies, however, have seen donations take a steep drop, as the world seemingly becomes callous to the stream of horrific tales from refugees and refugee agencies.
Throughout the conflict, Baptist churches from the United States have worked in various ways to help Syrian refugees have access to lifesaving aid and to advocate for them both in the U.S. and overseas.
New Bethel Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Mississippi, for example, has taken generous steps to ensure they are doing their part to demonstrate God's love to Syrian refugee families. Seeing detailed reports about the religious and ethnic violence within Syria and Iraq last fall, New Bethel took action. Instead of collecting a Sunday morning offering for their new building project, New Bethel opted to send the money through Baptist Global Response so refugees could be supplied with food, blankets, medicine, and shelter.
"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," New Bethel pastor Curtis Pace said.
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