The civil war in Syria is roaring. What began as some hostilities in 2011 has grown into a full-blown civil war, with the Syrian government on one side and an Islamist rebel coalition on the other. The opposition consists mostly of the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front and other Islamist groups. The citizens of Syria are fleeing in droves.
One effect of the war is that the Islamist extremist groups have taken military control of many cities and are forcing conversions, stealing possessions, and executing some of those who refuse to convert. From this perspective, then, especially with Syria the war is allowing (extremist) Islam to expand by fear-based conversion.
Another effect is the mass migration out of Syria to flee the war. This has sent hundreds of thousands of refugees across Europe in search of asylum. Many European countries have closed their borders and refuse to let them in for economic and political reasons.
But there is another reason some countries fear the refugees. There is a growing fear across Europe, as reported to me from individuals and as reported on NPR, that many of the refugees are Muslim extremists seeking to infiltrate all the countries of Europe. After infiltrating Europe, they could initiate strings of terror in attempt to collapse the West’s governments.
How should Christians respond?
First and foremost, we should think about and act toward these refugees with the mind of Christ, as we’ve already written. This involves loving them as our neighbor, which means we must see life through their eyes to see how we would want to be helped in this desperate situation. Those of us in America cannot currently do much physically to help the refugees, but more and more may come into the country. Until then, we can use our words and ideas to promote Christlike responses toward this crisis.
As more and more refugees enter America, we will then have a real opportunity to serve them. We can find where they are being housed and visit them. Many of them will need rides to grocery stores and a church community to join, if they wish. Many will need financial assistance. There will be organizations facilitating all this, generally, and you can connect with them.
Lastly, we should remember that this Syrian crisis opens doors for the gospel.This Syrian crisis opens doors for the gospel. Click To Tweet
The church is small and persecuted in Syria. Some Christians are beaten by their families for following Christ. Islamist rebels are confiscating property, money, and killing family members in attempts to force conversions. There are some Christians who are remaining in the country to be a witness to Christ, and they are paying severely for it.
But despite this persecution, people–including Muslims–are finding faith in Christ. Local partners with Voice of the Martyrs report several instances of this brutish application of the Quran repelling Muslims away from their faith. When they find the simple, loving teaching of Christ, they are drawn to it. Jesus teaches us to love our neighbors as ourselves, and to love God with all our heart. Paul teaches us to live peaceably with everyone as far as it depends on us. When some in Syria find the Bible, they finds its obvious superiority to the teaching of the Quran according to the way Muslim extremists apply it.
And if so there, why not here? When refugees flee to America for safety, I hope they find care, love, provision, and genuine concern for their well-being. I hope also that we refuse to treat them as objects of evangelism or projects to convert. Rather, I hope that those who serve the refugees will find opportunities to share what God has done in their lives through Christ, and ask if they would like to read Scripture with them–not as projects, but as neighbors and fellow sinners in need of Christ whom we want to love in service and in word.
Lastly, I also hope Christians in Europe can be a voice for the same mentality and resist the temptation to shut out all refugees because of a fear of Islamist infiltration.