Serving the refugees from Syria
The situation in Syria is tragic – but the small Christian community in the region is sharing God’s love with thousands of refugees.
So says Nabil Costa, the Executive Director of the Lebanese Baptist Society (LSESD), and a BMS World Mission trustee.
Mr Costa is currently in the UK as a guest of the charity Embrace the Middle East. He was the keynote speaker at the charity’s annual service on Saturday, and is addressing churches throughout this week, including Newton Mearns Baptist Church in Glasgow on Saturday. He also met with the Bishop of Coventry the Right Reverend Dr Christopher Cocksworth, a member of the House of Lords, on Wednesday.
The civil war has seen more than 1.2m Syrian refugees flee to Lebanon, he explained, in addition to the 300,000 Palestinian and a further 100,000 Iraqi refugees who have sought refuge there.
Though Lebanon cannot really handle this influx (its population is only 4m, and ‘our infrastructure is not up to date’ said Mr Costa), Baptists are playing their part: they are reaching 25,000 Syrian refugees with a mix of food, medicine and shelter, said Mr Costa, and providing education to 150 children. Baptist partners in Jordan are responding in similar ways.
‘We cannot deal with everything, but this should not stop the church helping as much as we can,’ said Mr Costa. ‘The role of the church is to help those in need.’
The focus on the refugees comes in spite of something of a fractious past: Lebanon experienced Syrian occupation until 2005; there was Syrian involvement in the Lebanese civil war between 1975 – 1990.
‘Regardless of our history together, now it is the time to practise our true Christianity,' said Mr Costa. 'It is our duty to serve them. So what God gives to us, we are sharing. And the more we share, the more God gives.’
He continued, ‘We are finding that people are surprised when we help. They don’t know the church has this role. They ask, ‘Why are you helping us?’ and we are spreading a Christian message about love and sacrifice. They are seeing this message.’
Referring to the UK Mr Costa, who praised the excellent support given to LSESD by both BMS and Embrace, added, ‘You don’t see these stories. It’s all bad stories. But in spite of the bad stories, good is happening and God is working.’
Commenting on Mr Costa’s visit, Jeremy Moodey, the Chief Executive of Embrace the Middle East, said, ‘We in the West are becoming comfortably numb about the terrible humanitarian crisis in Syria, so Nabil’s visit to the UK is timely. Embrace has already sent £300,000 to support work with refugees and displaced persons, but the need is enormous and getting worse. What is amazing is to see God at work in such a dire situation.’
See more about the response by BMS World Mission and Embrace to the situation in Syria.