Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Syrian defections prove chaos reigns

(Images courtesy EFCA) Syria

Syria (MNN) ― Over the weekend, the Assad regime took some serious hits in Syria.

"The measures of uncertainty as senior government officials are leaving kind of points in the direction of destabilization," says Mark Lewis, TouchGlobal Director (humanitarian wing of the Evangelical Free Church). The latest reports indicate Syria's prime minister and his family defected to Jordan.

A senior U.S. official says it appears that at least three other top government ministers also left, and rebels bombed a government-run television studio. An American official traveling with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Africa called on other senior members of the Syrian government and military to break with President Bashar Assad.

Clinton will stop in Turkey for talks on Syria in four days' time. In the meantime, the government unleashed its fury on Aleppo. In Damascus, the regime's grip on the city was challenged by guerilla warfare-styled attacks, executed by militia.

Although some news reports cite these events as proof that Assad's regime is "crumbling," Lewis says they've heard this before. The message their team hears is far from "it's almost over." "We sense that there is just going to be a continued season of instability in the country. It may even last for years as a new government comes in. Then, people will [say] 'this is what I wanted,' and there'll be more uprisings or transition. It just seems like a situation that is going to be uncertain and destabilized for a continued period of time."

The Evangelical Free Church, in partnership with other ministries and local churches, has been responding to the crisis. Lewis says, "On the Jordanian side, we're hearing 1000 people a day are leaving Syria and crossing into Jordan. And I would expect those numbers are probably similar in Lebanon, but I don't have any specific numbers."

The bigger picture: two million Syrians are affected by the conflict, including 1 million internally displaced people. As many as 130,000 Syrians are living as refugees in neighboring countries, according to UNOCHA Humanitarian Bulletin, Issue 05, 3 Aug 2012.

Many refugees are living in primitive conditions, Lewis notes. "[We're] seeking to get blankets, food and other basic supplies into people's hands as they figure out what life is going to look like in the next days, weeks, or months."

For those left in Syria, water, and electricity have been scarce, and the factories have laid off most of the people. Food and goods have more than doubled in price, and in many areas there has been fighting in the streets . 

Yet God has their partners in position to take relief into the desperate people trying to survive. Lewis explains, "Our ministry partners are on the ground doing a whole lot of outreach and pre-evangelism, relationship building. Our hope is that, long-term, this will lead to a great church-planting opportunity."

That's not necessarily an unrealistic goal. Lewis says, "Disciple-making efforts can occur within a refugee population. Eventually, those people would be able to go back home, and there could be this 'seeding' of the church. That's kind of a long-term vision."

$50 provides food for a family for a month. ReachGlobal's goal is to raise at least $30,000 to allow their partners to serve 600 families. $10 provides a blanket: they're trying to raise enough funds to get 500 blankets into the refugee camps. 

What else can you do? You can pray. Lewis asks for prayer for safety for their partners. Also, "Pray for a fresh openness of the Gospel. People's hearts can either be hardened, or the Lord will work in them and there will be an openness as they seek answers to questions like, 'Why now?'"

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