The Syrian Refugee Crisis: What You Need to Know
February 4, 2015
She entered the clinic, tracing the ground with her eyes. Her father stood by, the weight of the world clearly resting on his shoulders. His eyes were red from crying as he lifted the sleeves of his daughter’s jacket, revealing her disfigured arms.
Government officials had stormed into their home to kidnap her father. As she grabbed her daddy, screaming and begging for them to let him go, they broke her arms with the butts of their guns. Without access to medical care, they healed incorrectly, leaving them disfigured and dysfunctional.
IT STARTED WITH THE ARAB SPRING.
On December 18, 2010, a series of protest broke out in Tunisia that quickly resulted in the overthrow of their government. The sentiments in Tunisia sparked similar uprisings across the Middle East, giving birth to the Arab Spring. Within the year, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen would also see their governments overthrown while demonstrations continued to rage in neighboring states.
But the swift changes seen in other countries sparked something much more violent in Syria. Since 1963, President Bashar al-Assad had ruled Syria under emergency powers with little tolerance for dissidence. As the movement came to his country in 2011, it was met with a swift crackdown. It only took a few months before the situation devolved into a terrifying civil war. Competing rebel groups each seized control of parts of Syria while its citizens were forced to pick sides. In the midst of the anarchy, terrorist groups like ISIS have risen to power with horrific acts of violence.
IT HAS BECOME A PROXY WAR.
The war is between the Alawites and the Sunni Muslims. But who is backing each side is of major importance.
The Alawite led government of Assad is backed by Iran and its Shiite regime of the Ayatollah Khamenei. The Sunni Muslims are backed by much of the Arab Gulf who do not want to see Iran expand anymore than they already have. The Shiites hate the Sunnis and vice-versa. This conflict goes back to virtually the beginning of the religion.
But the situation is even more complicated by the fact that ISIS is a Sunni Muslim terrorist group that threatens the entire Middle East- both Shiites and fellow Sunnis.
Bashar al-Assad hails from the Alawite people, a minority group who make up just 12% of the Syrian population. The Sunnis, who comprise Syria’s majority or about 74% of the population, have long resented his power and view Alawites as a heretical sect of Islam. As Assad’s government hangs on for dear life, the entire Middle East is in play and now unstable. Iran and the Shia fundamentalists have infiltrated the entire Middle East and now ISIS has done the same.
THERE ARE NO GOOD GUYS.
While war engulfs Syria, both rebel groups and government forces have begun tearing families apart. Husbands and fathers are forced into the armies. Wives and mothers are sold as “brides” to ISIS fighters. Young children are kidnapped for ransom. With the death toll over 190,000, no one is safe.
The situation has resulted in a terrifying humanitarian crisis. Syrian refugees are pouring into Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq. They come with nothing more than the clothes on their backs. Of Syria’s 22 million citizens, 3.8 million are now refugees in neighboring countries. Another 7.8 million remain internally displaced. Over half of the people have lost their homes.
YOU CAN DO SOMETHING TO HELP.
It is easy to look at the situation in Syria with a sense of disbelief and helplessness. As images stream across our television screens, it can feel like a far-away tragedy that is beyond our control as western Christians. But there are several ways to get involved and make a difference.
Pray. Until the country stabilizes, the situation will continue to spiral downward. Meanwhile, neighboring countries are running out of resources to care for refugees.
Pray for an end to the fighting and the installation of a stable and free society. As the Church in Syria faces widespread persecution, pray for their strength. Over 450,000 Christians have now lost their homes. Ask God to give them rest and opportunities to spread the Gospel in the midst of this tragedy.
Pray also for Sunni Muslims and Alawites who, through this great tragedy, are opening up to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Only God could have done this. In some cases, Alawites and Sunnis have become followers of Jesus and have reconciled with each other once they reconciled with our Father. One Middle East leader has mentioned a prayer meeting where former Muslims and Alawites hugged and embraced each other as brand new believers in Christ. In the streets of Damascus, the death toll mounts. But only Jesus can bring life.
Give. You can help provide for their needs with even the smallest donation. Your contribution will be used to provide blankets, pillows, and other necessities that many Syrians had to leave behind. Click here to learn more.
Go. That’s right. You can actually go minister to them. e3 Partners is serving Syrian refugees in neighboring countries by providing humanitarian aid, meeting women’s needs, offering medical care, and assisting the people.
Above all else, the Syrian people need Jesus. They need to understand that the same God who created the stars over their heads knows them each by name. They are not forgotten and they have value in his eyes. You can be the one who introduces them to their Savior while providing life-changing care.
Click here to view one of the expeditions to Syrian refugees in the Middle East.