“…. Make your shadow like night — at high noon. Hide the fugitives, do not betray the refugees. Let the … fugitives stay with you; be their shelter from the destroyer.”
Saturday, June 20th is World Refugee Day, and the problems highlighted by this day have seldom been greater than they are this year. Every minute in the world in which we live eight people leave everything they have and flee in order to escape the terrors of persecution or war. Although this may not sound like a lot of people, you just have to do the multiplication to see that millions of people are affected in the course of a year. It is estimated that some 60 million people (roughly equivalent to the entire population of Italy or the United Kingdom) have had to leave their homes, 14 million of them in the past year alone – and half of them children.
People are fleeing persecution and war in many areas, especially in Africa and the Middle East. Groups such as ISIS and Boko Haram are daily terrorizing, torturing and killing people of every age in many areas. Christians are one of the most persecuted groups; as a result, thousands are being forced to flee their homes and livelihoods each day.
Overall, relatively little is being done to help these people in desperate need, though there are some bright spots. In the Middle East, for example, where thousands of Christians are struggling to flee Iraq and Syria to avoid death at the hands of the Islamic State, huge tent cities have been set up in neighboring countries as staging areas for people who can get to them. Turkey is helping with this, and the Polish Government has recently stated that Poland will accept Christians fleeing from ISIS. A number of Christian aid groups are doing tremendous work – with limited resources – in helping move refugees such as the Syrian Christians to areas of safety, but so much more needs to be done to save hundreds of thousands.
What can we do about such a widespread problem? Everyone can do something! This year, celebrities from around the world have released a series of 30-second videos supporting refugees as part of a coordinated campaign for World Refugee Day. If we are able we can support missions such as Barnabas Aid’s “Operation Safe Havens” which is evacuating Syrian Christians in danger. The fund is rescuing Syrians and flying them to Poland and other areas where churches are organizing to welcome them and to find accommodation and jobs for them. Anything you can donate to this cause – however small – can help save lives immediately. Go here if you would like to donate to this particular operation.
Financial support is not the only way we can help rescue those threatened by ISIS and similar groups. Local churches can arrange to receive and settle Syrian or other Christian families, and individually we can contact our government representatives to urge them to involve our government in doing something – or doing more – to restrain the threats and to help those in this great need. And, of course, whatever our situation, we can all pray fervently for those in need of deliverance from danger.
The current refugee crises around the world demand more action and humanitarian involvement than is happening. As Christians we have a special responsibility to those we can help, and especially to our brothers and sisters who are being singled out and slaughtered for their faith. We might well remember the words of the prophet Isaiah, quoted above, in this regard. Not to help the refugees, if it is in our power to help them, is to betray them.