Syrian refugees fleeing ISIS, airstrikes

(Photo courtesy Baptist Global Response/Internationl Mission board)

(Photo courtesy Baptist Global Response/Internationl Mission board)

Syria (MNN/IMB) — U.S. military airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria began late Monday.

The strikes hit nearly two dozen targets in parts of Syria controlled by Islamic militants. Roughly two thirds of ISIS fighters are based in Syria, with the remainder in Iraq.

The Defense Department said aircraft from Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates assisted in the attacks.

Many of the refugee camps are already overcrowded. Mark Kelly with Baptist Global Response explains, “Just over the past three days, at least 130,000 new refugees poured out of Syria into Turkey because of an Islamic State offensive there. Now, in the past 24 hours, we’ve seen airstrikes beginning in northern Syria, and that’s bound to increase the flood of refugees even more.” In fact, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was making contingency plans for all 400,000 residents of the region to flee onto Turkish territory to escape the militant advance.

As the crisis continues in its fourth year, Christian workers persevere in bringing spiritual and physical aid to the refugees and call on the church to keep praying and keep giving to these efforts. Kelly says, “We feel like the crisis in Syria is a God-given moment in history. The real question is whether we’re going to be cowards and shrink back, or whether we’re going to step up and play the role that God is calling us to play in this situation.”

As the numbers of Syrian refugees continue to rise, workers keep their focus on the individual people around them, sharing the Gospel as they meet physical needs. Even as workers tell their stories, the scope of this conflict is sometimes overwhelming.

(Photo courtesy International Mission Board)

(Photo courtesy International Mission Board)

Kelly noted in an earlier statement that “it’s easy for Americans to sit back and watch the evening news, without ever thinking about the horror being faced by innocent civilians in a far-off place.”

While multiple stories of war and disease may blur together, the onus is undeniable on followers of Christ. “Jesus came to seek the lost and to bring healing to people who are hurting. As we continue to reach out to refugees, our desire continues to be to reach out to one person at a time and make a difference in that person’s life.”

It takes courage to come alongside the Christian relief workers and national believers who are putting their lives on the line to help refugees in Syria and neighboring countries, Kelly says. Why? “It takes courage to stand against the attitudes many Americans have toward Arabs and feelings they have about the crisis in the Middle East.” It takes courage to be a voice for the voiceless and keep telling their stories to people who are distracted.

Being informed means being responsible. BGR can’t do this alone. People who want to help can donate $10 by texting REFUGEE to 80888. Donations in other amounts can be made at the Baptist Global Response Web site, www.gobgr.org.

This is unquestionably a spiritual battle. Pray for BGR and its partners as they respond to this window of opportunity. “The ability to share the Good News of God’s love is only magnified when you have people in crisis and you have the opportunity to bring to them food and water and other kinds of supplies that are critical for them, especially as the cold winter temperatures are just around the corner.”