Date: July 22, 2013
(Photo courtesy Baptist Global Response)
The numbers bear that out, as Syria rapidly becomes the world's worst refugee crisis in the last 20 years. Bluntly, the United Nations says that as the hostilities continue, an average of 6,000 people are fleeing every day.
Jeff Palmer with Baptist Global Response explains that in Rwanda in 1994, word of a genocide got out, but efforts to respond gained no traction. The horror came when the bodies were found. Over the course of approximately 100 days, over 500,000 people were killed. "People knew, and they were saying it, but nobody would do anything until it was over. And then we regretted the fact that we didn't do something and really help when we could. That's what they're trying to say right now: ‘This is a critical time.' You're looking at five million people displaced out of 22 million."
That's why Rwanda enters into the dialogue about Syria's fighting. According to the UN refugee chief Antonio Guterres, refugee numbers have not risen "at such a frightening rate" since Rwanda. The UN estimates that roughly 5,000 people are being killed each month, and the violence continues to escalate.
At last count, over 6.8 million Syrians needed urgent help. Palmer acknowledges that compassion fatigue is a huge enemy to action. "What they're trying to say is: ‘This is a critical situation.' It's been going on two years, and maybe people are tired of hearing about it. Don't be tired, because there is need here...we're going to be sorry if we don't do something right now, like we were in Rwanda, years ago."
The UN estimates that $3.1 billion is still needed to provide aid in and around Syria for the rest of the year.
Meanwhile, the people flee. Many refugee camps have been established in a nearby country to help these refugees. Most of the camps are full, however, and many refugees are searching the urban areas on their own for accommodations. Usually 3 to 5 families share one apartment. Work is hard to come by, and when they can find a daily job, they are paid less than $6 per day.
Palmer says, "We're kind of one of those groups that looks for the areas that nobody else is touching. We find them in isolated populations, and we find ways to get the basics of life to them like food, shelter, and especially health and hygiene kits."
BGR partners are providing relief for 200 of these families through "household packets" and simple medical care for women and children. The household packets contain basic food items, baby food, and hygiene products. That project is one of several where BGR is helping Syria's refugees. However, in scope, they are helping thousands of families when hundreds of thousands are in need.
What difference do a few dollars' donation make? Palmer answers, "In the end, if it's just a drop in the bucket, it's a drop. And it's a drop that matters--maybe not to the whole big picture, but it matters to that family that's that drop, or that child that gets food or education supplies or healthcare materials."
Palmer goes on to explain that funds brought in for Syria go TO Syria where they can do the most good. "It's pretty much a ‘dollar in, dollar out' type of thing that BGR does. If people give a dollar, we put it together with every other dollar we get and get it into the hands of those who can make sure that whatever that dollar buys, get it directly to folks, and make the dollar count."
Pray for the refugee families to find favor in the city, especially for income-generating work. Pray for a source of rent money so refugee families are able to obtain shelter. "When people are uprooted, transplanted, and the rug is pulled from under them, they've got questions: Why? What's going on? Why is God doing this? We're able to give them an answer for that hope, and that answer is Jesus."
The scale of Syria's violence will be the scar of this generation, much as that of Rwanda was the face of the ‘90s. Shocking? Yes. Answerable? Definitely. No regrets. Pray, give, or go.