Date: October 11, 2012
Syrian refugee camps (Photos courtesy Freedom House 2)
Last week, after Turkey's parliament authorized a military response, the government reinforced its military presence on the frontier between the two countries. This was in response to an earlier Syrian shelling in Akcakale.
For nine straight days, Turkish guns have also been firing on Syrian positions. The tit-for-tat has inflamed rising tensions between Turkey and Syria. There are concerns that the conflict will ignite a broader crisis, especially since relations have cooled off considerably. IN Network Turkey director Behnan Kanutgan spoke to us from Istanbul on a very scratchy connection. "They [Turkey] helped the rebellious [sic] against the government [Syria]. They supported them with money, they supported them with guns, and this was not good."
He says, "Turkey has around 600,000 miles of border, and we have people who we know--Christians in churches, and they are affected very much [sic]." The United Nations reported that 335,000 Syrian refugees have registered with the organization--an increase by ten times since March.
However, not everyone is being counted. Kanutgan explains, "About 30 km outside of Istanbul, on the other side of the water, there are 200 families from Syria. They're the subject of church, and they're best served from Iraq. They are in bad condition." He goes on to say that "sometimes the UN doesn't accept them. They have no passports, no money, and they're broke. And this is the church because the church has mercy ministries."
Even more distressing, Kanutgan says they were hampered from the Turkish side as they tried to help the refugees. "We attempt to go to the camp and help people, but the government didn't want us to go into the camp. The government doesn't permit anyone to go. Only the army, the government." As Kanutgan pointed out earlier, a more effective relief response will be coming from the Iraq side.
Organizing that will be the team from IN Network Turkey. They've been involved with many of the Christian churches in Turkey. Church planting and evangelism are carried out by a small church plant in Istanbul.
Their nurture is personal, through one-on-one visits with church members. Kanutgan says experience with the earthquake relief effort in 2011 meant they could quickly mobilize a response for the refugees, too. "We are very strong in helping those. This is what we are supposed to do. We are continuing to pray for peace in that area."
Many believers feel isolated because of the oppression they endure in Turkey. As they act as the hands and feet of Christ, "Pray that the believers in Turkey would be encouraged and when they hear of 'wars and rumors,' they would look up and wait for Jesus' Second Coming. This is what we need."