Date: November 25, 2015
By Darrell Pack, Special to ASSIST News Service
MACADONIA (ANS – November 25, 2015) -- The stark vision 25 feet in front of me shocked my senses: one of the young Iranian men before me had sewn his mouth shut. Why?
Just about a five minute walk out of the refugee transition camp south of Gevgelija, Macedonia there is what is now being called a no-man’s land between the borders of Macedonia and Greece. There 300 people or so from various nations have been gathered in a protest against the laws passed last week forbidding them entrance to Europe. These are refugees and immigrants from Muslim countries that are facing varying degrees of danger and disorder. Europe is allowing Afghani, Syrian, and Iraqi refugees to escape the hellish nightmare of war and terrorism that has engulfed these nations. But those fleeing other lands—where there is greater political stability—such as Morocco, Palestine, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Iran are being refused entrance. This situation has been publically rebuked by E.U. officials as an illegal action.
The various nations represented are grouped together here in this no-man’s land. Posters appealing for help and asking for refugee status are all saying that their situation is such a humanitarian disaster that is immoral to refuse them entrance to Europe. The North African Arabs chant in accented English “Open the Border” and “We are all refugees.” A Pakistani group plaintively reminds everyone that they are victims of the Peshawar bombing. But the largest group is that of the peaceful but grimly determined Iranians. The Iranians are confident that if they go back to their homeland, their government will certainly kill them.
The Iranians have been on a hunger strike for the last couple of days and they are determined that they will not go back to Iran where they state that they have no human rights or freedoms. The Iranian group is composed of secularists, political reformers, and religious coverts from Islam to Christianity.
Colleen Thomas has been working 6 days a week in food distribution and providing various other physical and spiritual helps to the refugees at the camp since February. Her first interaction with the refugee crisis came as she helped a 14 year-old girl who had been put into prison. Over the last months she has heard literally hundreds of stories of horrible loss, danger, violence and destruction from refugees facing overwhelming odds. She told ASSIST that one of the saddest things she has ever heard was an Iranian convert to Christianity from Islam sadly declaring, “All I want to do is pray and worship God freely.”
Sylvia is a translator for Farsi and Macedonian languages. She was born in Iran and so her first language is Farsi.
She came to Macedonia in 1986 and left Islam and began to follow Jesus eleven years ago. Besides her official duties as a translator, Sylvia goes through the camp encouraging, praying for and sharing the gospel of Jesus with those Afghanis and others with whom she can speak Farsi. She believes that God has molded, shaped, and refined her for just such a vital time.
Sylvia mentioned to me how one Iranian man said to her, “We are not here asking for money from Europe. We had our professions and processions back in Iran, we are not beggars. But we have no Freedom.” They often explain how if the Iranian gets them back they will be tortured and killed.
Today I watched Sylvia comforting a distraught young Iranian lady who cried out, “What is our sin? What have we done that these people would treat us like this. Sylvia says that the Body of Christ must learn to, “Become bold to protect their brothers and sisters in Christ. They need to find or build a mechanism by prayer and influence to take situations in hand.
As this vibrant Iranian believer talks, every so often her face is clouded with obvious concerns and fears for those Iranians in the no-man’s-land for those who have become so desperate that they sow their lips closed as they push forward their narrative and agenda.
Photo caption: Some of the thousands of refugees.
About the writer: Darrell Pack has ministered extensively in Muslim contexts, and writes and speaks Arabic.