“When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn” (Proverbs 29:2).
Some 4.1 million Syrians have now fled their homeland, according to the United Nations, victims of more than four years of civil war in their homeland. This is the latest war to redistribute people from ravaged countries.
Following World War I (1914-1918), when millions of people fled their ravaged homelands in search of refuge, governments responded by signing international agreements to provide travel documents for these first refugees of the 20th century. Numbers of refugees increased dramatically during and after World War II (1939-1945), as millions more were forcibly displaced, deported, and resettled. The United Nations responded with the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol which clarified the rights of refugees and the obligations of the 148 members that became party to one or both of these instruments.These obligations have greatly burdened these countries in the current Syrian refugee crisis.
According to the United Nations, those countries in Europe absorbing refugees include:
- Turkey, which shares a border with Syria, has taken in almost half.
- Lebanon has taken in over a million, increasing its population by 25 percent.
- Jordan has taken in 629,000, with about 20 percent living in camps.
- Iraq has taken in 249,000 despite attacks by ISIS, which has captured portions of the country.
- Egypt has taken in 132,000. Billionaire Naguib Swiris has offered to buy an island from Greece or
Italy as a new home for these refugees.
Besides the refugees entering these countries, Europe has received nearly 250,000 asylum requests, many of which will not be processed for several years. The sheer number of migrants seeking refuge to Europe is so overwhelming and stretching the capacities of these countries that British lawmaker Nigel Farage of the Independence Party has labeled it a problem of “biblical proportions.”
Persian Gulf states, which were not a party to the 1951 treaty, have not accepted refugees despite sharing a common language and geographic proximity in the Arabian Peninsula. The United States (and Canada) has limited Syrian refugees to about 1500 since that country’s war broke out in 2011. However, the United States has provided more than $4 billion in humanitarian aid and almost one-third of the more than $574 million provided for the refugees. Reshaping the Middle East Exact numbers on population shifts are difficult to determine because of the chaos in both Syria and Iraq. While some four million Syrians have fled the country, another 6 to 7 million have been internally displaced.
Thus around half of Syria’s prewar population of 20 million has been forced from their homes. A European Parliament resolution in March 2015 condemning attacks on Christians and other minorities said more than 700,000 of 1.1 million Syrian Christians were among those who fled the country. In Iraq, the pre-2003-war Christian population may have been as high as 1.4 million. Estimates today put it at fewer than 350,000.
Iraqi Christians that moved to safer regions in the north under Kurdish control are now threatened by ISIS. So many Christians have been forced from their countries that the New York Times in July 2015 titled a report, “Is This the End of Christianity in the Middle East?” According to a Pew Research study, Christians face religious persecution in more countries than any other religious group.
This is the time foretold by Jesus, “There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Luke 21:25,26 NAS). The Greek word here translated “perplexity” means “no way out.”
The refugee crisis has followed years of unending battles among nations and within nations. Enemies change but the result is the same. Fear and uncertainty are now the norm. Governments in Europe and the U.S. ponder how commitments made long ago can be kept. They see no clear way out of the dilemma, and in many cases, put off inevitable crises with temporary fixes.
Jesus said, “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; otherwise the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear results” (Mark 2:21 NAS). Daniel said of our day that there would be “a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation” (Daniel 12:1).
Jesus tells us that God will provide a way out, a way of salvation for the human race. God’s remedy for the ills of fallen mankind is Christ’s earthly kingdom, or government, which throughout his entire Word, He has promised to establish. Most notable among these promises concerns the great Messiah and King: “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on his shoulders; and his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of his government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9:6-7 NAS).
The blessings of Christ’s kingdom are promised in Micah 4:1-4 (NAS), “And it will come about in the last days that the mountain of the house of the LORD will be established as the chief of the mountains. It will be raised above the hills, and the peoples will stream to it. Many nations will come and say, Come and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, And to the house of the God of Jacob, That He may teach us about His ways and that we may walk in His
paths. For from Zion will go forth the law, even the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
“And He will judge between many peoples and render decisions for mighty, distant nations. Then they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they train for war. Each of them will sit under his vine and under his fig tree, With no one to make them afraid, For the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.”
It is fitting that God should liken his coming kingdom to a mountain. God promises to set up a more powerful kingdom on earth than has ever been known before. No more will refugees struggle to find a home, nor will countries struggle to house them. In this kingdom, each will have a place and a purpose. None shall terrorize them or drive them out of this Kingdom. Let us pray earnestly for its full establishment!
Categories: 2015 - November/December, 2015 Issues