Not since the Second World War has Europe seen the huge numbers of refugees and migrants fleeing terrible conditions currently arriving in its cities. Amidst the debates over our own Government’s response, whether Europe has the resources to support the influx of desperate humanity and the individual acts of grace and love, many Christians are asking: what can we do?
At the 2015 Baptist Assembly in Scotland all of the offering was given to support Baptist help for refugees. That was a generous act of Scottish Baptists reaching out to help those they will never meet.
The images that have so impacted our collective consciousness represent just the outer edge of a much larger humanitarian crisis as it approaches our own borders. Responding to the needs we now see on our doorstep is important, but we must not forget the humanitarian disasters that are driving people towards Europe.
It is in these areas, at the source of the suffering that BMS is responding and where we are committing the financial response of Scottish Baptists.
The Syrian crisis
Within Syria itself, BMS has provided food relief to people displaced by the violence, and our main focus has been in Lebanon, where there are 1.1 million registered refugees from the Syrian crisis are now trying to make a life (and some estimate the real number to be several hundred thousand higher).
“We are proud to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Lebanon, who have welcomed an incredible number of refugees,” says Steve Sanderson, BMS Manager for Mission, one of the people responsible for co-ordinating BMS’ responses to refugee crises around the world. “Continuing to help people where the scale of the crisis is overwhelming is the best way we can respond to the devastating images we have seen on our TV screens,” he says. “We are so grateful to all the British Christians who are heroically standing alongside the victims of violence in Syria and Iraq.”
The position of Syrians in Lebanon is tenuous. Even refugees living in tents are expected to pay ‘rent’ without any sustainable source of income. And while the Lebanese Government has done an incredible job of integrating Syrian refugees, many of the hundreds of thousands of refugee children who have been unable to fit into the education system are now forced to beg to help to feed their families.
Through our partners in Lebanon, BMS has been providing food aid, blankets and heating for the cold winters and safe spaces for refugee children to learn. Churches in Lebanon are playing a key role and BMS is proud to support workers helping both Lebanese and Syrian families coping with this crisis.
The refugee crises beyond Syria
BMS is also responding to refugee situations beyond the current headlines.
On the Thai-Burma border, BMS workers and partners are providing help and hope to at-risk children, many of them refugees from persecution in Burma.
In Iraq, BMS has helped to support a camp near Mosul, between the Kurdish and ISIS front lines. We have helped our Christian partners to provide food, mattresses, hygiene supplies and shelter to people who have lost everything.
BMS’ commitment to long-term recovery means that in Uganda, long after the violence of the Lord’s Resistance Army and Government forces forced the migration of tens of thousands of people, we can help families who are returning to their land to secure livelihoods and build for the future. Also in Africa, BMS has helped to support internally displaced people in South Sudan after the recent conflict there.
In Italy, BMS workers have, with the local Church, been helping desperate migrants as they flee poverty, violence and persecution in Africa and make their way to Europe’s shore in the boats of people traffickers.