July 25, 2013

No longer is the Syrian crisis a ‘simple humanitarian emergency’

By Eden Nelson

AMMAN, Jordan – Leaving everything behind, Syrians are fleeing at an astonishing rate into neighboring countries in hopes of escaping a devastating civil war.

According to a report recently released by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 6,000 Syrians a day flee to nearby Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey and Egypt.

Respond by praying

  • 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.
  • Pray that there will be peace in the land.
  • Pray for Baptist Global Response (BGR) and others who are seeking to aid in the relief that they will have wisdom and knowledge as to the best places and methods to minister to the millions in need.

To date, the UNHCR has registered nearly two million who have fled Syria, while an estimated five million internally displaced persons remain within Syria’s borders.

According to High Commissioner Antonio Guterres, the world has not seen an outflow of refugees “at such a frightening rate since the Rwandan genocide almost 20 years ago.”

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 chooses to close its borders.

The High Commissioner appealed for long-term approaches to be formulated, because developing restrictions on Syrians fleeing to neighboring countries would sound “an alarm bell which must not be ignored.”

“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 they have been able to mobilize almost $700,000 worth of assistance, 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,” said Palmer.

A majority of the aid he describes as being given to people and areas “that have fallen through the cracks of assistance from other groups.”

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To volunteer with BGR visit:

Zaatari, a refugee camp in Jordan, is home to 160,000 Syrians, making it the fifth largest city in Jordan. According to UNHCR, women and children make up three-quarters 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.

UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos said, “We are not only watching the destruction of a country, but also of its people.”

Don Alan*, a Christian worker involved in ministry among Syrian refugees, said, “Every family has a tragic story to tell of their journey that got them to where they are now.”

Alan is trying to determine how to respond to this unparalleled challenge. He described how the need outpaces the funding that his work among Syrian refugees has received, and “that is a tragedy, that is sadness,” he said. In the midst of his heartbreak for the need that is around him, Alan says he sees signs of God’s hand and God’s plan unfolding in these tragic events.

“For the first time we have been able to sit and share the Gospel with Syrian families, and they are responding,” he said.

Alan desires to point to the “only hope,” which he believes can be found only 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, and to me that reality is terrible,” he said.

Respond by giving

To donate money to the Syrian Crisis visit:

“We can’t have that attitude,” Alan said. “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.”

Alan said that one of the largest needs is for people to respond with passionate prayer. Praying that Syrians “would 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.”

As the need is so great around him, Alan remembers the times that Jesus fed large crowds of people. He recalls one instance when Jesus’ 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,” said Alan. “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.”

*Names changed for security purposes.

Eden Nelson is a writer for the International Mission Board based in the Middle East