“Convert…, pay a protection tax or leave.”
This ultimatum given on 17 July 2014 resulted in many Christians fleeing from their hometowns, becoming refugees almost overnight. The United Nations reported in August 2014 that 1.2 million Iraqis and 1 million Syrians were internally displaced.
When news of such a catastrophe was heard, there was an outcry from the global community. In Singapore, the Bible Society worked with the National Council of Churches to raise an appeal for the refugees. This effort enabled us to give away just over $250,000 to meet the urgent needs of persecuted Christians. The contribution provided families with Scriptures, food items, medical supplies, blankets, mattresses, and hygiene items. Although some physical needs were alleviated, the refugees were left with deeper scars.
Mike Bassous, General Secretary, Bible Society in Lebanon, shared with us the following heart-wrenching stories during their crisis relief project.
The Toy Gun
Three-year-old Abir was resistant to knowing us and escaped our hugs and gifts of candy. When we finally talked to her, we asked her what she was doing with a gun, supposedly a boy’s toy. She immediately answered, “To protect my family and home.”
The Handmade Crosses
We noticed many handmade crosses hanging over the tents of one camp. When we asked one family why they put up the cross, the obvious answer was from the Gospel of Matthew, to carry our cross.
The Kidnapped Daughter
Aida wept as she recounted how her three-year-old daughter was taken from her by ISIS militants.
“Those moments were the hardest in my life. I felt that I was dead, unconscious of my surroundings. My heart was cold as ice. I wished they could kill me, better than leaving my daughter behind.”
They do not know today whether their daughter is alive. The father feels guilty as he feels responsible for not protecting his child. The other children are also scared and traumatised.
“We felt that Christian refugees were very wary and simply wanted to leave the country. Our relief and Scripture programme, which is much appreciated, appeared as if we were putting a band-aid on a cancerous organ. The wound is very deep!” – Mike Bassous, General Secretary, Bible Society in Lebanon
The Christian refugees need more than physical items to heal them of their fears and wounds. They need hope and refuge solely anchored in God, the great Physician who heals completely.
Please take a moment to pray for these refugees.
SAFETY: Pray that all who are fleeing will find safe harbour and be well-provided for by the Lord.
COMFORT: Pray for comfort for those who have lost loved ones and suffered traumatic violence.
FAITH: Pray that local Christians and the next generation will be strengthened in faith and truth, and the Church will grow.