Millions of people currently affected. Because of differing definitions, UNHCR (UN Refugee Agency) counted 26.6 million refugees in 2021 and 84 million forcibly displaced people worldwide. 42% of them are under 18 years old. Were these displaced to form a country, it would be the 17th most populous in the world! Recently, most refugees have come from Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan, and Myanmar. Nearly 7 million Syrians - more than 1/3 of its population - are refugees. War and conflict in Afghanistan and Myanmar have newly displaced millions more. Africa continues to be wracked by many civil conflicts, Islamist violence, and epidemics. These have combined to generate huge numbers of refugees. Pray that these millions would encounter Jesus, who Himself was a migrant (from heaven to earth) and a refugee (fleeing to Egypt from Bethlehem).
The following prayer content comes courtesy of Dr. David Phillips (R.I.P.) Refugee status. Whether one is received and treated as a refugee depends on the appropriate agencies of the country he or she enters, especially if one's entry was illegal. Some countries are tolerant; others imprison the refugee until either asylum is proven and granted or the person is deported. Tighter entry controls force legitimate asylum seekers and refugees to try dangerous illegal entry methods. The situation is made worse by people displaced due to climate change and other environmental disasters and the many millions of economic migrants seeking a better material life. Fraudulent claims to refugee status also confuse the position and reduce the chances of legitimate refugees being accepted as such. These distinctions are important because both statistics and the work of agencies may be limited to only one category of immigrant, especially as resources are always scarce. Pray for the governments of the world to exercise discernment, compassion and justice in offering shelter and asylum to those who are truly in need of it.
Living conditions. Refugees often find themselves living in camps built by governments, NGOs or by the refugees themselves. Refugees and IDPs are often terrified and away from familiar surroundings, living a precarious existence without sanitation, medical care, adequate food, education for children, or occupation for the adults. They can be at risk of disease, child soldiering, terrorist recruitment and physical and sexual violence. Cases of exploitation by enforcement officials, citizens of the host country and even UN peacekeepers known to happen. Instances of human rights violations, child labour, mental and physical trauma/torture, violence-related trauma and sexual exploitation, especially of children, also occur. Undoubtedly and tragically, there are far more instances that those that have been documented.
Repatriation. The ideal is for refugees to remain sheltered in a host country until it is safe for them to return home. If this proves impossible they can be resettled in the host country or a third country, but this can take years. The US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants describes nearly 8.5 million as "warehoused," most for over ten years.
Children as refugees. Unaccompanied children under 18 years of age present a special problem, whether on the journey to escape danger, in the refugee camps or in any resettlement programme where they lack both resources and adults to care for them. They become a "lost generation" without hope, self-esteem, education or basic child development. In many refugee camps, girls are particularly vulnerable to abuse; in African camps in particular, girls have been known to be exploited for sex or have had to trade it for food, protection, or even non-essential gifts. Many become pregnant and the peacekeepers, militia or other refugees generally fail to assume the responsibilities of fatherhood.
"Durable solutions" to refugee populations, as defined by UNHCR and governments, are:
- Voluntary repatriation and resettlement back in their own country - to the same property as before the crisis that drove them out - is complex and almost impossible; however, opinions are gradually changing about this solution. Violent conflict destroys political, economic and social structures, and new structures develop as a result that are quite often irreversible. The turmoil of the crisis usually impacts the refugee's property and relatives permanently.
- Local integration into the country of asylum. People settling in their country of asylum continue to need help adapting to language, ways of life, employment, education and relating to the authorities.
- Resettlement to a third country. About 17 countries in the West regularly accept refugees. Most of these refugees have escaped from war situations that have not stabilized such as in Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Liberia, Somalia, Sudan and the Balkans. As much as 60% of the population of Jordan, with its higher standard of living and political stability, is comprised of immigrants, particularly Palestinians from the surrounding Middle East.
Christian response to refugees and IDPs. Pray that agencies be given wisdom and resources to adopt the right solution for each case where people are expelled from their homes.
- The Refugee Highway Partnership (RHP) was formed by the WEA Missions Commission to coordinate the work of many evangelical agencies involved with refugees, including World Vision, World Relief, Tearfund, Shelter Now, Hope for the Wounded and others. The RHP has spawned a number of regional networks around the world, giving a united voice for relating to governments and other organizations, for development training programmes and for coordinating strategies.
- Agencies providing emergency aid and assistance are myriad and include:
- Christian Aid (UK) has delivered urgent aid in emergencies triggered by conflict in areas such as Vietnam, Lebanon, Kosovo and Darfur. Refugees, displaced people and vulnerable people caught up in conflict receive humanitarian assistance in times of crisis.
- WVI works in many countries, including among the four million IDPs in South Sudan, Sudan and in the eastern region of Congo-DRC where more than one million people are displaced (and where countless women and girls are victims of sexual violence and children are recruited as soldiers). WVI is directly and indirectly assisting some 1.6 million people in Congo-DRC through the provision of emergency assistance to the most vulnerable children and their families in conflict-affected areas.
- TearFund works with refugees and displaced peoples, especially those uprooted by natural disasters in several countries.
- Agencies assisting with repatriation or resettlement are also numerous and include among their number:
- The Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) responds to needs of people who suffer from poverty, hunger, disaster and injustice. For the past 30 years, Christian Reformed churches have been helping refugees and refugee families build new lives for themselves in Canada, the US and other nations. Canada is unique among nations welcoming refugees because it is the only country that allows sponsorship capabilities by private organizations.
- Other agencies such as Shelter for Life, working to rebuild homes and communities in both Africa and Asia, and Shelter Now, helping displaced persons in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
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Content taken or adapted from Operation World, 7th Edition (2010) and Pray for the World (2015). Both books are published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.