“A refugee is someone who because he/she fears persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or social opinion, leaves his/her country of origin and is unable to avail him/herself of the protection of that country.” United Nations High Commission for Refugees.
Ministry to refugees is an important role for the church. We are commissioned to aid those in need. Many are sick, most lack shelter, food, clothing and other essentials of life, and often victimized. From a strategic viewpoint, it is often far easier to minister to refugees in more open nations than their original homelands, that are fraught with restrictions and conflict. Ministry to refugees ranges from providing donations of food, clothing and shelter, medical care, vocational skills training, evangelism and pastoral care, to name a few.
A good starting place is to contact your Government Department for Ethnic Affairs, the office of the UNHCR, plus the embassies of the nations already mentioned that are situated in your country. Inquire about the needs of refugees within their borders and how you can help. You can also contact large relief organizations such as Youth With A Mission, World Vision, Compassion International and many others, plus your own denomination’s relief arm. They can provide excellent leads and opportunities of where and how you can get involved.
The plight of women refugees
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has identified that of the 27 million refugees in the world, 80% are women and their dependent children. The needs of all refugees is heartbreaking but refugee women face particular hardship with poor living conditions, poverty and the lack of access to relief projects. In addition, refugee women face physical and emotional hardships such as isolation, discrimination, sexual violence and exploitation. Women are often left powerless and unable to rebuild their lives afresh.
Often a lack of understanding by relief workers (most of which are male) to the cultural and religious issues highlight the problems faced by many refugee women. One example of this was in a refugee camp and subsequent building of latrines. Latrines for both men and women were placed in the one area of the camp. It was not until some time later that it was noticed that the women were refusing to use the facilities provided. Upon asking the reason it was discovered that it was not possible for a Muslim woman to use a latrine where she would risk meeting men not from her immediate family.
In another camp it was observed that women were not able to approach the areas where food and supplies were being distributed because the women risked being exposed to non-family members.
Only those women who had a husband or older son were provided for. Many women lose their husbands and fathers as a result of war and conflicts. This disintegration of the family unit leaves the woman as the sole member responsible for generating income, providing shelter, finding food, firewood and water. These tasks are often complicated by the fact that women are excluded from the decision making process and leadership structures of their environment.
In the past few years relief agencies have begun to recognise the specific needs of refugee women and are dedicating relief and development resources to them such as gender awareness programs and special protection arrangements.
Reaching Muslim refugee women with the Gospel is not an easy task. There is a huge need for Christian women to work among the world’s refugee women.
Pray for refugees around the Muslim world
* Pray that those Muslims in need would find comfort and provision through Jesus Christ.
* Pray for the refugees that are you are aware of, ask God to meet their daily needs, and pray for the church to reach out in love and real concern. (Ps.86:1-8)
* Pray for the workers who are ministering God’s love among refugees and to know His leading as to how to share the Good News of Jesus.
* Pray that our own hearts will be moved with compassion to seek out our own involvement in meeting the needs of refugees. (Prov.17:5)
* Pray for mothers who have the added responsibilities of caring for their children in harsh and tragic circumstances (Psalm 9:9-10).
* Pray for women who are separated from their husbands, and for widows, that they would know God’s grace and comfort (Isaiah 54:5-7).
* Pray for those women who have suffered violation and shame, that they would experience restoration, healing and honor from God (Psalm 69:19 – 20).
* Pray for Refugee Women and refugee issues around the Muslim world.