Refugee week 2015: BMS responding to crises
Nearly one per cent of the world’s population are refugees or internally displaced persons (IDPs). That’s over 60 million who have been forced to flee their homes to stay alive.
The aim of Refugee Week is to raise awareness about the communities that have been broken apart by conflict and to stand in solidarity with those whose lives have been forever changed.
Here are a few of the places BMS is making a difference for as many of the 60 million as we can.
Thailand: over 140,000 Burmese refugees in Mae Sot
Hundreds of thousands of Burmese refugees are living on a rubbish dump along the Thai-Burma border. Political, ethnic and religious fighting prevents them from going home but their illegality keeps them poor. Thailand does not recognise them as citizens or asylum seekers and therefore is not required to provide assistance. So they live in a place no one would choose willingly.
BMS and a partner organisation have stepped in to help these refugees. BMS mission workers Brian and Lydia English teach English in a predominately Muslim school and assist the field team in making home visits to families in the area. Bob and Charmaine Trendell, BMS mission workers who recently left Thailand, worked with vulnerable children at the day centre, helped to lay the groundwork for an adoption resource and worked to get medical and food assistance to those in need.
Iraq: 3,276,000 IDPs as of January 2015
Islamic State’s actions has affected many countries and Iraq, Iran and Syria are just a few. Millions have fled their homes, searching for safety, with as many of their possessions as possible. However, food and hygiene supplies are not easily accessible when running for your life and weather conditions can be unpredictable. To help with the desperate situation BMS sent two grants, totalling £25,890, to a partner on the ground. There they provided Iraqi families and individuals with food, mattresses, hygiene supplies, electric heaters, sleeping bags and shelter.
Syria: 3,984,003 registered refugees and 7.6 million IDPs
Since the Syrian conflict began millions have fled their homes, though not all managed to leave the country. The exact numbers of refugees and IDPs are always difficult to know, since not everyone registers and those displaced are, sometimes, forced to move multiple times.
The second largest population of Syrian refugees is in Lebanon, a country that was slowly reaching a place of economic stability before the March 2011 conflict began.
BMS’ Louise Brown and a team from the Hadath Baptist Church in Beirut are supporting Lebanese and Syrian students at schools in a programme called the Learning Support Project. Here they work on numbers, literacy and life-skills.
BMS’ Arthur Brown, with the help of a Mission Innovation Fund grant, renovated a VW bus and turned it into a mobile youth outreach centre. Here he is helping to build bridges between Lebanese and Syrian young people.
695,435 applications for asylum in Europe from March 2014-March 2015
We’ve all seen pictures of the boats filled with exhausted and scared refugees who are hoping for security in countries like Italy. Over 100,000 refugees have survived the journey but hundreds have perished in the attempt. The mode of transportation: wooden boats, rubber dinghies and rotten vessels long past their prime. The price, their life savings.
BMS ministers Ann and David MacFarlane have been the compassionate faces refugees fleeing Syria, Eritrea, Nigeria and Somalia, have seen after braving the treacherous and expensive journey.
When their church is alerted to the coming of a ship, the congregation team waits with water, clothes and food as the tired and scared refugees finally reach land.
“Jesus asks us to stand beside those who are vulnerable, inevitably those are going to include refugees,” says BMS Manager for Mission Projects Steve Sanderson.
"A UNHCR report released earlier this year says that 15 conflicts started or reignited in the last five years. The result of every conflict is people in desperate need and BMS is committed to this work.
“When you look around the world and see how BMS has responded to 20,000 refugees in the last two years, in places like Syria, Central African Republic and Iraq… you begin to get a bit of a feel for how refugee work and work among IDPs is a thread that runs through a lot of what BMS is doing around the world. A thread that, as we pray for resolutions to the violence, we hope will soon no longer be needed."
Please continue praying for resolutions to the conflicts affecting millions of men, women and children around the world. And pray for the BMS mission workers who have dedicated their time to improving the lives of the refugees and IDPs.
More about BMS’ relief work can be found on its relief grant page.
Sources: BBC, IMDC, UNHCR
This article first appeared on the website of BMS World Mission and is used with permission