(Cover photo by Freedom House. Story photo courtesy Baptist Global Response)
Syria (MNN) ― The ceasefire in Syria was greeted yesterday by the deaths of 31 people at the hands of Syrian troops.
Instead of silencing their guns and withdrawing, President Bashar al-Assad's troops pursued his opponents with dogged determination intent on adding more to the 9,000 already killed since last March.
The consequences of dishonoring the ceasefire are unclear. Britain may be ready to take steps to refer Assad to the International Criminal Court. At the same time, some countries favor giving military support to the opposition, while others are reluctant to add more military to the conflict.
Under the peace plan it agreed to, Syria is supposed to complete the drawback of its troops and armor from population centers ahead of a complete ceasefire on Thursday. However, not only does it appear that Syria is ignoring the treaty, but also the violence appears to have spilled over into Lebanon and Turkey.
Tens of thousands Syrians have fled across the border into Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, and more are coming every day. The countries receiving them are ill-equipped to handle the influx.
Many of them are being met by Southern Baptists ministry partners with badly-needed aid and the love of Jesus. Baptist Global Response is the humanitarian aid wing of the Southern Baptist Church. Spokesman Jeff Palmer says they're doing what they can to help. "We've been able to help along the edges, in some of the areas where the refugees are coming out."
The disappointing aspect is that despite dim hope for peace, there has been no let-up in the violence. In fact, it's as if there never was a ceasefire, says Palmer. "We're not changing our strategies right now significantly, based upon the ceasefire, because technically on the ground we're not seeing a lot of differences."
Since most of the refugees fled with the clothes on their backs, they had no way to survive in the camps without help. "We're still providing food, some temporarily shelter, basic necessities for families. We're using local partners in different countries to help us do the local response."
BGR teams are taking a "wait and see" approach to Syria's ceasefire. Palmer says, "Even in the places where we've seen some positive changes, in areas like Libya, all of these changes bring additional challenges. So even with the ceasefire going forward in Syria, we knew that it would be weeks--even months--before we knew what all of that means."
Needs are increasing as the crisis darkens, and the plight of the people worsens. "In those border areas where folks are fleeing out of Syria, our greatest partners have been the local church. They've been able to help us to disperse almost $100,000 worth of aid in food, shelter, clothing."
Already, human needs funds have helped more than 12,000 people in at least 49 communities, Palmer notes. He goes on to add that because of how they approach the needs, "We're able to partner with local believers to minister to those [fleeing]. Christians become the hands in terms of helping, and also the feet in terms of taking the message of hope to the folks that are leaving."
The Southern Baptist aid is helping not only the fleeing Syrians, but also the Christians in neighboring countries by empowering them to be a blessing to their local communities. "Pray for wisdom and knowledge for the churches in two different countries outside of Syria which are helping to respond and receive these refugees," Palmer asks. He adds, "Pray for them to be wise as serpents but gentle as doves because there's a lot of danger."