Christian ministries in the Middle East are experiencing setbacks as officials in some European countries have called for shutting their doors to Syrians refugees following the Islamic State's Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris.
Amid the shocking attacks in Paris, which left 130 people dead and scores wounded, and reports that ISIS is recruiting from among Syrian refugees and infiltrating refugee camps, several countries have tightened controls on refugee flows.
However, a majority of the migrants are families, women, children and the elderly who are themselves victims of ISIS and other war-related violence, notes a report from the Christian Aid Mission, a nonprofit organization which seeks to assist and promote native missionaries overseas.
"The Paris attack has affected us in Jordan very much," the director of one ministry serving refugees told the organization. "And it has affected the refugees themselves, because now they have lost hope of going to Europe and starting their lives there."
The report quotes vox.com in revealing that prior to the Paris attacks, more than 4 million Syrian refugees had gone to neighboring countries like Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon, compared with only 700,000 going to European countries.
However, while the number of refugees leaving Turkey for Europe has gone down, the number of refugees fleeing to Turkey has not diminished, the director of a ministry native to Turkey revealed.
"Those countries in the middle of Europe have closed their doors to receive refugees, and the news is being spread around in the camps here," he said. "So they are choosing to stay in Turkey. Also, now the opportunity to sail by boat to other countries is becoming more difficult for them, due to the agreement between the Turkish and European governments over the past few months, so those choosing to leave Turkey have slowed down considerably."
In addition, refugees who attempted to flee are forced to return home, further burdening indigenous ministries that Christian Aid Mission assists.
"This has increased the need for our help, because a number of families sold all their possessions or gave them away, saying, 'We're going to Europe,' but then they were sent back and are now having to find needed possessions again," he said. "This is particularly the case with those who tried to enter Europe by boat. They may have left from Izmir [in western Turkey], but then returned to the north on the Black Sea, where we are serving them. They need tents, heating devices, and all the other needs for survival."
The ministry director also revealed that the refugees are testing the young Christian fellowships, where Arabic-speaking or Kurdish-speaking Syrians are unable to explain that they mean no harm.
"Although [Turkish] brothers and sisters don't say it openly, they hold back from being friendly to the refugees coming for aid from us," he said. "One can sense that the refugees themselves are feeling judged and looked over as though they may be affiliated with ISIS and are dangerous. This makes them feel ashamed, when really they want to be connected but can't make that clear to the church members."
The ministry director is urging Christians worldwide to send monetary aid to those in need and to continue to pray for those suffering in the Middle East.
"With your help in sending finances, we are providing the best we can for those who come," he said. "We will not back down from helping these needy people. We need prayer, because some Christian leaders decided not to work with them because they are afraid, but my team is ready to do what is necessary," he said.
He also spoke of God's power amid the darkness, explaining that many fleeing ISIS terror are compelled to convert to Christianity
"And our hope is in the God who turns evil into good, and does miracles to turn the hearts of mankind from terror to searching for God's goodness," he said. "There are people having experienced the terror of ISIS who come to me saying, 'I want to be a Christian.'"
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