Yes, the point of the title was somewhat to be clickbait and a little provocative. But what is happening right now in Syria is absolutely gut-wrenching, the last few months the civil war has escalated from terrible to what one UN official described as “unprecedented bloodbath” that is looming (in northwest Syria without international action).
So part of the title expresses a bit of what I am feeling right now based on my observations. So with this disclaimer, I am sorry if you stopped by and you think I am not just trying to feel guilty, this is not my goal. But this post I hope will serve as a wake-up call for some, a cry of lament for others, and serves as a way of expressing my own sadness of the dilemma and to process it.
The number of people displaced, trapped and close to death right now is Syria is the worst it has been in the 9 years of civil war and absolutely heartbreaking. Almost 1 million fleeing Syrians in northwest Syria are trapped–with the regime of President Bashar al-Assad advancing to the fighting the last faction of rebel armed opposition (backed by Russian airstrikes and pro-Iranian militias—and Turkey), the border is closed to refugees, with innocent civilian Syrians trapped. Shocking images and news continue to pour out from the Idlib region: like at least 70 hospitals have been bombed out of commission in the region of Idlib and only one functioning hospital remains.
One account of the lives being lost to freezing temperatures since it’s winter it “means people who manage to escape the bullets and shells still aren’t safe from the cold. Winter temperatures fall to the 30s and 40s overnight. Without enough tents, many sleep in the open. At least seven children have frozen to death in recent days.
These are people created in God’s image with names and difficult stories to hear as they have lost all hope. People like, Amro Akoush, who fled with his two young children and said “We no longer have hope for anything other than a quick death, that’s it. That’s all we ask for.”
A picture of a man who just buried his young nephew after he froze to death.
We cannot just look away. I lay awake sometimes at night thinking, grieving, and crying out to God asking “how can we get American Christians to not look away?”
The horrific images have largely lost their power to shock. With almost 9-years of the Syrian civil war, each year seeming to bring worse catastrophes and greater atrocities than the last it has left America and sadly US evangelicals numb; somehow our conscience deaded. Death tolls have surpassed 400,000 while Syrian refugee numbers are over 5.5 million and over 6 million are forcibly displaced within Syria’s borders. Yet we continue to look away.
What will it take to not look away? While what is happening in Syria, the global refugee crisis, and the crisis at the southern U.S. border is tragic; and I also realize they are also complex situations with no quick fixes or easy answers, but U.S. Christians cannot stay asleep at the wheel.
What will it take for us to care? I am going to take another article to unpack some of my thoughts to answer this question. Certainly, it will take an unwavering commitment to the sufficiency of scripture and that is where we must start. As I read the Bible and have ministered the Gospel vocationally for over 22 years I realize that few hold it truly as all-sufficient when it comes to this issue (just look at research when it comes to the Bible shaping evangelicals thinking on immigrants). This must weigh bigger than our normal chosen political platforms and the Bible has much to say on caring for refugees.
There are passages like Proverbs 24:11-12 that call us to rescue and state clearly: “Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, ‘Behold, we did not know this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?” This is a clear command in Scripture, yet so many have grown complacent in a culture that turns blindly at the plight of refugees (and many vulnerable-the unborn, orphans, immigrants, homeless, just to name a few). If you are a Christian this passage cannot be overlooked.
Friends, again, my desire is not to make you feel guilty. I realize it is impossible for all Christ-followers to serve every vulnerable group in need of Christ hope and help, but my desire is to shed a bit more light on the current plight of Syrians while sharing my heart in the process.
Beyond just what it will take for us to care, I want to mention what we can do.
- We can pray, and let us by God’s grace not do less than that, I have shared more about that here.
- We can serve practically with our churches to care for refugees, see here.
- We can give, let me blow the trumpet for a couple of organizations that are serving that are with Gospel intentionality. One is my friends at Baptist Global Response, you can designate giving toward the refugee crisis here.
- The other is Free Burma Rangers, a unique group not only seeking to help needs but going right in the throws of the battle to seek to rescue those in crisis; learn more here.
By Jason Lee
Jason Lee is the Director of the Acts 17 Initiative, which exists to partner with churches to educate, equip, and engage with the Gospel to the Nations in the U.S.