Displaying items by tag: Refugees
Over 2.5 million Ukrainians have now found refuge in Poland, and the number just keeps rising. Even on a rainy day, the border crossing is crowded with war-weary refugees searching for some relief. Denys, a 40-year-old single dad, fled Kharkiv after living in his basement for a month. He's been raising his son alone since his wife died 18 months ago. He arrived at the Operation Blessing tent cold, wet, and hungry, but left full and dry, with a new coat and a suitcase for his belongings. Nearby, a crying baby is now smiling and content after being rocked to sleep by a volunteer. The sounds of war gave Marina’s three young sons nightmares, so she fled leaving behind an older son and husband to defend her homeland. Oksana, Denys, and Marina are so thankful that Operation Blessing was there in their time of need to help and pray with them.
Christian missionaries in Russia have been referred to as ‘volunteers’ since 2016 after a law was passed that limits religious proselytising. Ukraine has become a launching pad for missionaries to Russia, where there is little or no religious freedom. A Ukrainian missionary wrote recently, ‘Our church has formed a team to help with the different aspects of receiving refugees, among other related activities. On 1 March I went to a military installation in Chișinău, where refugee Indian medical students from Odessa were sheltering. Some students were thankful to see a pastor and pray with him. They have studied medicine in Odessa for six years, and had just two months to complete graduation when the war came and they had to leave. They want the war to end soon, and they can return to Ukraine to complete their studies.’
When the Russians seized Berdyansk, four days into the war, Anya and her eleven foster-children were forced to stay in a bunker below their house for 42 days. ‘It was hard and dangerous, but every day we woke up and thanked God that we were still alive and still able to worship Him’. Anya said. They were rescued by Orphan's Promise. It was scary to leave. At the last checkpoint they were on a bus that came under fire when the Russians began firing on Ukrainian troops. Everyone on the bus fell to the floor, the children cried and shouted, but they all miraculously survived. Now the Russians have closed Berdyansk, not allowing anyone out or humanitarian aid in. The family expect to get visas for Switzerland to wait out the war.
Olena and Oleksandr tried to escape Mariupol, but ended up in a Russian refugee hub (more like a concentration camp) where they were interrogated. ‘You can't imagine how horrible the conditions were there. Elderly people slept in corridors without mattresses or blankets. There was only one toilet and one sink for thousands of people. Dysentery soon began to spread. There was no way to wash or clean. It smelt extremely awful. Soap and disinfectant ran out on the second day we were there. Soon toilet paper and sanitary pads ran out. We were fingerprinted, photographed, interrogated for hours, and had phone call history and contact numbers on devices checked for links with journalists or government and military officials.’ They said If someone appeared to be a 'Ukrainian Nazi', they were sent to Donetsk for further ‘interrogation’ (torture). When authorities tried to deport them to Russia, they risked escaping with private drivers to Ukraine.
Elżbieta Jarmulska, a feisty Polish entrepreneur, is the founder of the Women Take The Wheel Initiative to provide Ukrainian refugees with a ‘bubble of safety’. She says, ‘Those women have been through so much already, walking or driving their way through a war zone and now are exposed to fear and exploitation here? I have no words for what that must be like’. Elżbieta has recruited 650+ Polish ‘amazing women’, as she describes them, driving backwards and forwards as often as they can to the Polish-Ukrainian border, in order to offer refugees safe passage. They show their ID card and proof of residence to officials, before asking if anyone wanted a lift to Warsaw. The car is full in moments. Small children are given water, chocolate and motion-sickness tablets if they need them. The women are so relieved when they see they have a female driver to help them to safety.
The Government is looking at using the properties of Russian oligarchs sanctioned by the UK for ‘humanitarian purposes’ to house Ukrainian refugees. However there is ‘quite a high legal bar’, and this measure would lapse as sanctions ended. A website to express an interest in being a sponsor was launched on 14 March, and over 120,000 offers were received in less than 24 hours. Households in the UK who open their homes to people fleeing the war will be given £350 a month. Housing secretary Michael Gove said tens of thousands of refugees could come to the UK under the scheme, and he himself may offer a room to a refugee. However, the Refugee Council is concerned about the level of support for those traumatised by war.
Heavy snowstorms have blasted northwest Syria since 18 January. On the 23rd a child froze to death in a refugee camp. By 5 February thousands of displaced residents in 72 camps had frozen water systems and collapsed shelters from blankets of snow, and there are no medical services. Pray for medical supplies, thermal blankets, tarpaulin sheeting, etc. to reach the camps on treacherously slippery, frozen roadways. On 9 February teams began building dirt mounds around the camps to prevent flooding now that it is raining and the snow melting. Nearly 3 million displaced people are living in tents and temporary shelters. Heavy rainfall damaged over 190 displacement sites, destroying and damaging over 10,000 tents. Pray for the freezing families, particularly the children and elderly. Pray for aid agencies distributing food, heaters and clothing while facing severe weather conditions.
It has been thirty days since two planes flew 545 persecuted Christians and at-risk Afghans out of the country. They are now temporarily housed in Abu Dhabi. They have been given ninety days from when they arrived to leave the country and re-settle. They boarded these flights with nothing more than a handbag. Everything was left behind as they fled to safety. While they are all grateful to be alive, they now face uncertainty; pray for those assisting them with paperwork that must be completed for their resettlement, arrangements for flights out of Abu Dhabi, and temporary housing and living expenses when they land in their new home country. Brazil has emerged as a potential new home for these Afghans. Their rescuers have strong contacts in local churches, and the community there is ready to step up and serve as the Body of Christ, welcoming this group of refugees.
Last week 560 men, women, and children who were on paid flights and ready to evacuate were blocked at the last minute and had to return home. However, over 200 of these persecuted Christians cannot go home. They have nothing but the clothes on their backs and are in imminent danger. Just when things seemed hopeless, God provided a new temporary housing option. Please pray for God to clear the way for these flights to take off and provide safe places of refuge outside Afghanistan. Pray for encouragement for those who were sent home; may the Holy Spirit move in their hearts and remind them they are seen by our Lord. Pray for protection for those who will remain inside Afghanistan, continued provision for their daily needs, and a clear plan for long-term ministry and support.
Colombia is home to two million Venezuelan refugees who fled economic and political crises and now face adapting to and integrating into a foreign culture. But instead of finding support, they often find themselves isolated and discriminated against. Churches across Colombia have been reaching out to these refugees, letting them know they are not alone. Tearfund and local partners have been equipping churches to set up trauma healing groups, which have supported hundreds of women. It was at her local church’s healing group that Julia finally found acceptance, community, and healing. ‘It is the first support that I found here in Colombia for migrants like us. When I arrived at the church I found the peace that I previously did not have. I saw that it was like my family. I arrive and they hug me, I leave and they hug me. It really has made me think about changing my life.’