IDENTIFYING WITH REFUGEES FACING DANGER AND DEPRESSION

As the world marks Refugee Week (17-23 June), we consider the dangers and difficulties facing those who have to flee their homes and hear from Christians in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) who are helping the displaced. “A true Christian accepts the other,” a church leader from Egypt tells SAT-7.

Whether forced suddenly to flee a deadly situation, such as war, oppression, or a natural disaster, or going in search of better social and economic prospects, many people in the MENA are so desperate that they are willing to take great risks. Tragically, many never arrive at their destination.

“I know of a family from [a village in southern Egypt] whose son travelled, and the boat sank,” said Mrs Gihan, a guest on SAT-7 ARABIC program Today Not Tomorrow. “One year after that, they sent their second son. He was a young man of 20 or 22. The second boy travelled and didn’t make it [either]. Both of them died. The father is wailing and says, ‘I want the country to bring me my sons back.’”

Sadly this story is one of all too many. Numerous small boats, often unseaworthy and packed to capacity with men, women, and children, continue to set sail from the MENA and other countries, heading for Europe. Last year, over 250,000 migrants and refugees arrived on the shores of four European countries (Italy, Greece, Spain, and the UK), [1] and since 2014, nearly 30,000 people have gone missing in the waters of the Mediterranean. [2].

“HEAVY BURDEN”

Sometimes it is necessary to talk about solutions, but it is also important to sympathise with those who are suffering and give them a voice to share their experiences. 
 
SAT-7 PARS talk show New Identity this week welcomed Mohsen and Samira, a Christian couple living in Türkiye who lead a church for Iranians and Afghans. As they have persevered in their ministry, they have witnessed the “insecurity, depression, and hopelessness” felt by asylum seekers and refugees. These days the greatest anxiety for them is the danger of being deported back to Iran,” Mohsen added.  
 
Türkiye hosts more refugees than any other country in the world. Of the 3.6 million residing there, the vast majority are from Syria, but the number is thought to include at least 60,000 Iranians
[3]. 
 
Mohsen and Samira discussed various issues faced by members of their congregation, including financial, housing, and healthcare struggles, limited employment options, and barriers to education. “We have witnessed the truly heavy burden that they have to carry,” said Samira. “As a mother it has been very painful for me to see how many of the Iranian mothers here have been unable to even send their children to school because of the limitations placed before them.” 
 
New Identity viewers were deeply thankful that these issues were being given such time and attention. Zohreh, herself a refugee, sent a message to say, “Greetings to you, dear Mohsen and Samira, we are so glad that this important topic is being covered for us who are asylum seekers. The blessings of the Lord be with you.” Meanwhile, a viewer named Jozeph commented, “I am thankful for [Mohsen and Samira] and for how they are serving asylum seekers… Thank you for your program and thank God for each of you.” 

CHURCH SUPPORT

Meanwhile, an episode of Different Angle on SAT-7 ARABIC this week featured interviews with church leaders who are helping refugees in Egypt.  

Dr Eman Kamal, Head of Refugee Services in the Anglican Church in Egypt, said their first step was to provide food and clothing, before helping the refugees to find work. “Refugees add to society,” he said. “There are many jobs that Egyptians don’t like to do but refugees agree to do. They have skills. They are humans, and they have the right to be included and respected.” 

Another church leader, Father Soliman Alfy, Coptic Orthodox Priest, explained how they work to create awareness in the church about the different cultures from where refugees have come.  

“Our role is to apply our Christian values in accepting them and bringing Christ to them,” he said. “I worked in Sudan for some time and experienced their hospitality. I was a stranger in this country for a time, so I understand how strangers in a different country feel. It is very important to create awareness about other cultures and accept them. A true Christian accepts the other.” 

During World Refugee Week, pray for those who have had to leave their homes in search of peace, safety, or a better life. Pray for their protection, for their needs to be met, and for them to find acceptance in their new communities


[1] How many people cross the Channel in small boats and how many claim asylum in the UK? – BBC News 

[2] Mediterranean | Missing Migrants Project (iom.int) 

[3] Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Turkey – UNHCR Türkiye 

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