'Pray for an end to conflicts in the region'
The three resolutions agreed by the Council of the European Baptist Federation (EBF) were directly or indirectly related to conflicts in the region, notably Syria
The EBF Council, meeting in Tallinn, Estonia (28 September - 1 October) agreed three resolutions. One focused directly on the recent increase in violence in Alleppo. Another highlighted how the Baptist Alliance of Turkey is responding to the needs of many refugees in its country, and encouraged support for this relief effort.
A third resolution affirming the value of integral mission – combining evangelistic zeal with practical love – was also made by delegates in Tallinn. Stories were shared at various points throughout the Council of integral mission in action among Baptists churches across the region.
Resolution on Turkey
A resolution focusing on the work and challenges of the small Baptist Alliance of Turkey in providing humanitarian assistance to refugees was made, alongside an appeal for strategic assistance.
The Alliance, which only formed in 2014, is offering ‘hospitality and gracious care’ to the hundreds of thousands of refugees in Turkey. The resolution spoke of being encouraged by the vision and passion which strengthens the small group of young Baptist churches.
It highlighted the political realities that prevent the refugees from returning home or moving on, before inviting Baptist churches to continue praying for the protection for the witness of Christian believers in Turkey. It also challenged member bodies and mission partners to financially and practically support the relief of the humanitarian crisis in Turkey.
Earlier in the gathering delegates had been given more information about the strategic appeal for Turkey, which hopes to establish a €100,000 fund to enable the Alliance to assist refugees in the areas where its four churches are located.
The Alliance was formed in 2014 and is led by Ertan Cevik, described by EBF General Secretary Tony Peck as ‘a courageous and inspirational leader’. It has actively partnered state leaders, mayors and governors in providing assistance to the growing number of refugees since 2013, particularly those in not in state camps, but tents, or sheds in rural areas or cities. Over the past year EBF has conducted training for the alliance leaders and some of their team on addressing the humanitarian needs.
In September 2016 the EBF leadership visited all the Alliance churches. In discussion with the Turkish Baptist leadership assessed the humanitarian work done by the church, and what should be done going forward. The churches would like to continue to provide food to supplement what little the families have, and nappies and other supplies for infants and young children, particularly with most of the migration routes into Europe now blocked, the numbers of refugees are building up in Turkey and Greece.
‘The EBF leadership feel that it is critical that the global Baptist family support the Baptist churches in Turkey as they show the love and compassion of Christ as part of their witness to the Gospel,’ the appeal stated.
Resolution on Syria
The recent increase in violence in Aleppo, was the focus of a five-point resolution on Syria. It was written in in such a way for member Unions to use when lobbying their own governments.
The resolution ‘strongly’ condemned the increase in violence, which ‘fails to differentiate between civilians and those fighting.’ It urged all parties to abide by international humanitarian law to ensure the protection of all civilians, regardless of religion, race or ethnicity.
It called on all parties involved in the conflict to recognise the vital contribution of aid agencies. It then challenged all international parties to support and strengthen the efforts of the United Nations Security Council in seeking all possible solutions for peace.
The resolution concluded by stating that Baptists will continue to pray for an end to conflicts in the region which have created this humanitarian crisis.
A call to come before God and deeply intercede for the war to cease was made alongside this resolution, by British Baptist minister the Revd Grenville Overton (Team Leader, Southern Counties Baptist Association). Though our words can seem ‘paltry’ when thinking about Aleppo, an already martyred city, ‘I have not given up on miracles,’ he told delegates.
‘Who knows that our, and others' prayers and defiance to accept such slaughter, may by the power of the Holy Spirit make a difference?
‘In these wretched horrors, we must pray for people's protection and the cessation of warfare.’
Both the Turkey and Syria resolutions ended with the line:
Above all, we continue to pray for an end to conflicts in the region which have created this humanitarian crisis.
Resolution on Mission
The resolution on mission was rooted in Jesus’s challenge in Matthew 22: 37-39, amid the wider context of growing numbers of people coming to faith through the humanitarian work of churches responding to people displaced by the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine.
It affirmed the value of integral mission - the proclamation of the Gospel by word and deed – and emphasised that the church’s call to repentance has social consequences. At the same time, the resolution continued, ‘Christian social action bears witness to the transforming grace of Jesus Christ.’
The resolution gave thanks for the recently planted churches in our Unions, which are reaching out to ‘the whole person, in all their need.’ These congregations challenge all our churches to ‘combine evangelistic zeal and practical love in our witness.’
The resolution concluded by praying for further opportunities for Baptists in Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East to bless the communities around them. The resolutions were drafted by a committee headed by British Baptist pastor Shayla Merivale, who leads Wincanton Baptist Church in Somerset.