As we have watched the news over the last few months there has been increased concentration and recognition of the plight of refugees and migrants. In Europe we have seen a significant increase in the numbers of people on the move, especially into Eastern Europe. There were an estimated 280,000 detections for the whole of 2014. However, 350,000 people have been detected at European borders from January – August this year; and these are obviously only numbers of detections, many will have entered undetected.
The vast majority of the refugees are coming from Syria, fleeing the conflict there and the brutality of Islamic State. The BBC News during September quoted UN figures for Syria. According to these figures Syria had a population of 22.2 million. Since 2011, 4 million people have left the country as refugees, 7.6 million have been internally displaced and there have been 191,000 deaths.
Amongst those figures Open Doors estimate that 700,000 Christians have left Syria since 2011 due to frequent attacks, abductions and murders. Some Christians have remained in Syria and the church is involved in helping those who are internally displaced. These people are very often the poorest and weakest members of society. Thankfully they are helped by organisations such as Open Doors. Currently Open Doors are supporting 9000 displaced Christian families in Syria every month.
While we may not find ourselves on the frontline of this crisis it does not mean we can ignore the magnitude of the situation. We can and should pray for the situation in Syria, praying that there would be an end to the civil war and resolution of issues within the country. As part of the wider problem we should also pray that Islamic State would be dealt with – seeking wisdom for governments and world leaders involved in eradicating these violent threats.
We must also pray for Christians who remain in Syria, these brothers and sisters in Christ are part of the persecuted church. Syria is Number 4 on the Open Doors World Watch List. Pray for the protection of believers who have chosen to stay in order to help others, that they would have strength to continue to follow God in the face of such opposition. Pray especially for Muslim background believers as they are particularly vulnerable in these difficult circumstances. A concrete example of this is the 230 people abducted from a Syrian City at the beginning of August – pray for them in their captivity and for their release. Also, ask for God’s help and strength for the church as they serve internally displaced people – this is tiring and often dangerous work. Pray that God would save the people they are serving and that the church would grow, even at this tragic time.
We should also pray for refugees arriving in Europe. There is a need for practical arrangements and provision for them. We must also pray for those who are Christians, asking that they would know God’s help and that as time goes on they would actually become part of evangelising a spiritually dark Europe. However, there are faithful churches throughout Europe and so we can pray for those who are not Christians; that they would hear the gospel and come to faith in Jesus.
We must pray all of this in the knowledge that God ‘is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think’ (Eph. 3:20).