As the war in Syria stretches into its fifth year, the number of people who have had to flee their homes due to violence or persecution has reached 12 million — half of them children — according to the United Nations. The number of Syrians who have become refugees in other countries has reached 4 million since 2011.
Add to those numbers another 15.5 million refugees who have had to flee war, violence, and persecution in other countries, including Afghanistan and Somalia. As the number of refugees worldwide who are fleeing to countries in Europe continues to increase, experts are calling this the greatest refugee crisis since World War II.
During this crisis, the Board of General Superintendents is calling on the Church of the Nazarene to respond.
“Nazarenes are among those who have had to flee their countries to escape violent conflict,” the BGS wrote in a letter to the church. “Nazarenes are also among those who have had to flee because faith in Jesus has put their lives in danger. And Nazarenes are among those who have been ministering to refugee families who are seeking safety and hope.”
The message continues, “Prayer is always our first response. … Our next response is to give generously.”
The denomination is working through Nazarene Compassionate Ministries to support ministry to refugees through local churches.
In Hungary, Nazarenes have been providing food, blankets, and tents for refugee families stuck in transit both in Budapest and Roszke on the Hungarian/Serbian border. Now that the border has closed, a team of Nazarenes on the ground in Serbia is partnering with another church to meet emergency needs of refugees there, according to Teanna Sunberg, a missionary living in Budapest, Hungary.
Leaders from local churches and church plants in Germany, the United Kingdom, and other European countries receiving refugees are currently formulating plans for how to minister to refugees who arrive in their communities, according to Tim Bowen-Evans, international program coordinator for Nazarene Compassionate Ministries.
Nazarene churches in the Middle East have been ministering to refugees and displaced families from Syria and other countries affected by war and persecution since 2011. Locally led outreach efforts include providing food, supplies, medical care, and resettlement support. While the number of refugees entering countries in Europe, including those from Syria, has increased significantly this summer, the majority of the 4 million Syrian refugees are in countries that neighbor Syria, including Lebanon and Jordan.
Nazarene schools in the Middle East have also been providing scholarships for hundreds of refugee children from Syria and other neighboring countries. Rod Green, Nazarene Compassionate Ministries coordinator in the Middle East, reports that Nazarene schools in the Middle East will provide education and stability for 600 children affected by war and persecution in the next year.
One of the greatest concerns for children in areas affected by war and persecution is gaps in education — children often lose years of education because going to school is either too dangerous or simply not an option due to poverty conditions caused by war. Nearly 2.7 million children in Syria are not in school, according to USAID, and those numbers do not include Syrian children who are living as refugees in other countries.
“During this crisis, we remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 25: ‘… I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,’” the BGS wrote. “We are asking our global church family to pray and minister to those in need."
For a printable version of the BGS letter, click here.
How to Respond
Ask God to give wisdom to leaders and congregations as they minister to refugees in Jesus’ name. Pray for healing for children and adults who have been traumatized by violence or persecution. Pray for God’s presence to be felt and a spirit of peace to reign.
NCM has developed several resources, including bulletin inserts and a Powerpoint presentation, to educate your congregation or Sunday school class on the refugee crisis. Click here to download.
Churches and individuals around the world can support efforts to minister to refugee families through local Nazarene churches by giving to the NCM Refugee and Immigrant Support Fund.
To send donations by mail:
In the U.S., make checks payable to "General Treasurer" and send them to:
Global Treasury Services
Church of the Nazarene
P.O. Box 843116
Kansas City, MO 64184-3116
Be sure to put 125347 in the Memo area.
In Canada, make checks payable to "Church of the Nazarene Canada" and send them to:
Church of the Nazarene Canada
20 Regan Road, Unit 9
Brampton, Ontario L7A 1C3
Be sure to put 125347 in the Memo area.
In Germany, please donate through Helping Hands e.V., IBAN: DE56 5075 0094 0000 022394, SWIFT-BIC: HELADEF1GEL.
For other countries, please give through your local church or district, designating your gift to the NCM Refugee and Immigrant Support Fund.