For four years, the war in Syria has dragged on. For four years, people have hoped for peace, have lingered in their broken cities, have hung on in spite of reality, but the peace has not come. Instead, new crises have erupted — foremost, the threatening advance of ISIS.
As thousands of people fled in recent weeks, adding to the millions that previously fled, the refugee situation in the Middle East is quickly becoming unstable and is now spilling over into Europe. A mass transit towards Western European countries is causing many to call this the worst refugee situation since World War II.
Tens of thousands of individuals and families are risking their lives on this journey, arriving at each point of the way exhausted, hungry, traumatized, and afraid: through Turkey, across the sea, into Greece or Bulgaria, through Serbia and across the border into Hungary or Croatia. From there, they try to catch trains or buses into Austria and on to Germany.
At different stages of the journey, Nazarene individuals and churches — supported through Nazarene Compassionate Ministries — join efforts to provide care for refugees. In Syria itself, Nazarenes have been ministering to internally displaced families ever since the conflict began, distributing food, offering shelter and medical care, and enabling children to continue school for free.
When refugees move on to neighbouring countries, Nazarenes are ready to welcome them and provide them with the most necessary things to survive. In Lebanon, a small country that has received more than a million refugees, NCM and local churches are ministering in an organized effort to provide food, clothes, and trauma care. Church members are making many home visits to encourage and share the love of Christ. Currently, fewer refugees are entering the country and others are moving on, but the need is still great.
In Jordan, one church started a special weekly event for refugees where they offer programs for adults and children and give out food packages. Other Jordan churches are delivering food packages directly to families' homes. This has become an even more urgent need as only a few days ago, refugees received a text message from the United Nations saying that they would stop providing food aid.
Churches in other Middle Eastern countries have given clothes and blankets as well as toys and have raised tens of thousands of U.S. dollars to help their brothers and sisters in need. Refugees have also been provided with heaters, mattresses, shelter, baby supplies, and medical care.
In addition to these relief activities, more than 350 refugee children are receiving an education in four Nazarene schools, two after-school programs, and one supplementary education program, and many churches are offering kids clubs and homework help.
As the wave of refugees moves on into Europe, churches there are mobilizing as well. In Hungary, the Budapest Church of the Nazarene has been involved in helping refugees all summer, taking meals, clothes and toys, offering prayer, and even sitting down with small children at the train stations to colour books they brought.
"Even parents give grateful looks as they see their children playing in such an awkward life situation," said Maria Gusztinne, pastor of the Budapest church.
The Church of the Nazarene in Hungary works in collaboration with longtime partner the Wesleyan Theological Association and have coordinated their efforts with other churches and mission organizations.
"We want to meet real needs, be present and close to these people with full respect for what they go through, and join in for the time in their journey," Gusztinne added. "We look at this situation as a mission field, an opportunity for people to meet Christ."
When thousands of refugees were recently stranded at the Keleti train station in Budapest, Nazarenes took food, water, blankets, mats, tents, and jackets to families and individuals. They also helped the refugees make their way through a jungle of confusing instructions to find their way to Austria and on to Germany.
In Germany, local Nazarene churches in cooperation with Helping Hands e.V. are thinking about ways to assist the refugees in a long-term manner and help integrate them into society, for example through language classes. Frankfurt-based Church in Action has been working with refugees for years, taking them on day trips, visiting refugee homes, offering language classes, providing transport, and helping with visits to authorities.
Continued prayer is requested for the refugees and everyone involved in providing assistance and sharing Christ with these needy people. To support relief activities, visit NCM's giving page.
In Germany, donate through Helping Hands e.V., IBAN: DE56 5075 0094 0000 022394, SWIFT-BIC: HELADEF1GEL.