Archive for the category “Refugees”

Terry Waite: The awful plight of Christians in the Middle East

A Syrian man shows marks of torture inflicted after rebels took control of a Christian area of Aleppo. (CC AFP/Getty Images NC)

Terry Waite writes for The Guardian:

Last week I returned to Lebanon, a quarter of a century after being kidnapped and held captive for almost five years, most of the time chained to a wall and denied many basic comforts. You might think such a trip foolhardy, but the crisis developing there desperately needs attention.

I had been invited to go back to see for myself the plight of the many Christian refugees who are flooding across the Syrian/Lebanese border, and travelled to the Bekaa Valley to visit the refugees who have been forced into exile from Syria. The situation there is tragic. …

Worthy as the proponents of political change may be, there are now elements of the Arab spring that have been hijacked by Islamic extremists who want to impose sharia law and banish Syrian Christians, who make up about 10% of the population. This has created a very hostile environment for minorities. I met refugee families living in dire circumstances in Lebanese border towns, and heard first hand their harrowing stories.

In the early 20th century, Christians made up to 20% of the population in the Middle East; that figure has now dwindled to around 5%. Before the Arab spring Christians in Syria were businesspeople, engineers, lawyers and pharmacists. While Assad brutally restricted political freedoms, the regime did allow the Syrian people religious freedom – more so than elsewhere in the Middle East.

Now Christians are leaving the country. The occupied territories of Palestine are also rapidly losing their Christian communities. Egypt is in turmoil with a series of anti-Coptic Christian riots; Libya is a disaster. In Iraq 300,000 Christians have fled persecution since the downfall of Saddam Hussein.

An estimated 100,000 Christians have left Syria, many to border towns like al-Qaa. Lebanon is the last country in the Middle East where Christians can live in relative peace and security.

Al-Qaa is a dusty, somewhat ramshackle town which has been the scene of numerous border clashes across the years. It is here that many of the Christian families who have escaped from the terrors of warfare in Syria find a temporary home. More than 200 families are housed in and around al-Qaa, mainly being taken into the homes of other Christian families or renting properties. The people I met were not well off. Families I visited told similar stories. The conflict had become so severe that they had been forced to leave their homes. In one place, there were 15 people living in four small rooms. “The Arab spring is a joke,” said one of the refugees. “It has become another form of persecution.” …

From a Christian perspective, Lebanon is rapidly becoming the only remaining country in the whole of the Middle East where there is a significant Christian presence. It will take plenty of acts of reconciliation before Christians once again feel safe in their homeland.

Read the full text of this article by clicking here.
You can donate toward Syrian refugee relief by clicking here.

Place of refuge

The iconic image of refugees is row upon row of white tents in a sprawling emergency camp, not a dingy apartment in a mega-city. But the reality is only one-third of the world’s 15.4 million refugees live in camps. Like most of the world’s population, refugees have steadily moved into cities and towns. Urban refugees are among the fastest-growing population segment globally.

Bangkok, Thailand, attracts many thousands of these refugees, who live in awful conditions, treated as illegal immigrants, hoping against hope that one day some country will grant them asylum.

Watch the video below to learn about a team in Bangkok, Thailand, that is multiplying God’s justice for refugees. Click here to see more related photos, articles, and video.

Strangers in our midst: Welcoming refugees

Eric Metaxas writes on BreakPoint:

Since the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth to escape religious persecution, America has been a haven for refugees. This year alone, the U.S. has welcomed more than 70,000 of them.

As a result of decades of political violence, hundreds of thousands of the Karen people, the largest ethnic minority in Myanmar (formerly Burma), have been forced to flee the country. In 2007, the U.S. began allowing approximately 15,000 of them to resettle in America every year.

To accommodate these numbers, the U.S. government has depended on non-profit groups — mainly religious organizations and churches — to help the Karen and other refugee populations assimilate into American culture. This has been an enormous opportunity for the church to extend Christ’s welcome to the outcast.

One church in Greensboro, N.C., has done just that. In response to the influx of 3,000 refugees in their community, Friendly Avenue Baptist Church decided to sponsor one Karen family by helping them with basic needs, such as transportation, apartment set-up and language assistance.

Soon the church had three refugee families coming every Sunday and decided it was time to plant a church for those who spoke Karen. Over the course of the next two years, the church plant grew to 200, as word spread that Friendly Avenue really was friendly, a place where outsiders felt welcome.

Bryan Presson, 20-year missionary in Thailand and pastor of the Karen church, noticed that language barriers often forced his congregants to take low-paying jobs in factories located hours from their homes. And cultural illiteracy made them vulnerable to phone or mail scams. And they frequently faced prejudice and scorn from neighbors who weren’t excited about sharing jobs and resources in a downturned economy.

To read more about how this church multiplied justice for refugees, click here.

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: