BIBLE SOCIETY NEWS | John Sandeman and Suzanne Schokman
Tuesday 22 September 2015
“The father looked tired and we heard that he was just reconciled with his family. He had been abducted.” Looking like a man carrying a heavy load, Mike Bassous of the Lebanon Bible Society is telling Eternity of his visit to a refugee camp in Erbil.
“The family – a wife, three children – thought he was dead because they didn’t get any news from him, and suddenly he appeared three months later. He was captured by ISIS. He wasn’t tortured but he told us that he was hearing other people being tortured. At the end of the road he signed a paper saying that he had become a Muslim. Now, how do you deal with that? He said, ‘In my heart, I’m Christian.’ Some people would say straight away, he did the wrong thing. We’re not here to judge if he’s done a wrong thing or a right thing. We are here to help him and his family overcome this specific trauma, that this person had to make such a decision just to see his family.”
The 12,000 refugees coming to Australia will come with spiritual needs as well as physical wants.
A Bible, in Arabic and English, for every one of the 12,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees coming to this country is the aim of an emergency appeal by Bible Society Australia. The gift of Bibles will be sensitively integrated into Christian welfare agencies’ work providing food, accommodation, and support to the 12,000 new Australians.
Our sister Bible Societies in Europe, facing hundreds of thousands of refugees this year, have shown us how welcome the gift of a Bible can be.
They are lucky to have made it so far north but 4,800 refugees live in squalor at the Traiskirchen refugee centre near Vienna, The Times (London) reports.
“For the refugees, both Christian and Muslim, the church and Christian organisations such as Caritas and the Bible Society, are a lifeline in a bleak and sometimes hostile new environment.”
The Bible Society in Austria has distributed Bibles and material help in the camp.
The Times quotes Jutta Henner, director of the Bible Society, as saying that the refugees find biblical narratives very comforting. “There are stories of people who have been in the same situation as asylum seekers: far from home, facing an uncertain future, not being welcome, being persecuted and afraid. When they read these stories they can have hope and cry out to God.”
A shanty town called “The Jungle” outside the northern French town of Calais houses Eritrean and Ethiopian refugees seeking to cross to Britain. When viewers of the BBC TV show Songs of Praise tuned in on a recent Sunday, they got a surprise. The show – usually a representation of a safe suburban Christianity – came from St Michaels, the makeshift church made of tarpaulins and sticks built by refugees in the centre of The Jungle. The church is a clear signal that refugees, even during their journey, reach out for spiritual support. Other visitors will include a team from the British and Foreign Bible Society. They will bring
Bibles in Amharic, Farsi, Tingrinya, English and Arabic.
In Hungary, the Bible Society is preparing aid packages to be distributed at Hungary’s main train stations with the help of volunteers, and which will contain hygiene items such as shower gel and toothpaste, along with water and fruit juice.
Back on the ground in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, Mike Bassous, weary with caring for the spiritual and physical needs of a tide of refugees, asks for prayer for the refugees: “Let’s pray for the Iraqi Christian families first, because they have the potential to be reaching out to the other refugee families because they’ve shared the same story. And because they’re people of hope they are able to help the majority of the other refugees who do not have that same source of hope. So let’s pray that they will rediscover that hope and they will continue to be witnesses for Christ in those very difficult circumstances.”
To help make God’s promise of hope available to refugees coming to Australia, please donate.
Hear Mike Bassous talk about what it’s like to be a Christian in the Middle East, the experience of Iraqi Christian refugees and their need for hope: