The time to act is now was the overriding message from a Movement Day Global Cities panel led by Jim Burgess, Lead pastor of Fellowship Dubai, and featuring profound front-line insights from Leslie Doll, from the Half Time Institute and Resource Partner/Strategic Resource Group, and Sona Kazanjian, Syrian-born Director of Dubai Ministries/Fellowship of the Emirates.
Burgess – who has been leading his congregation in Dubai for almost a decade – hosted the discussion of the refugee crisis and the opportunity it presents for outreach to Muslim women. Framing the global refugee crisis, Rev. Burgess says, “We have 60 million refugees. That’s like the nation of Italy all leaving their homes.”
He adds, “Nine years in Dubai have taught me. Muslims have a great memory for history. They remember the Crusades. It’s hard to reach Muslims in the cultural prison they’re in. If we don’t reach them quickly, a refugee culture emerges.”
Doll: Speaking from Experience & With a Mission
Over the past two years, Doll has traveled extensively, visiting refugee camps throughout Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Greece, including Athens and the Isle of Lesbos where she witnessed refugees arriving on “death boats from Turkey.”
Initially, food, water, shelter, and medicine were essential. Today, many of these basic needs are being met, though she’s unsure about sustainability.
Now their issues are planning for an uncertain future and coping with all the horrors they’ve experienced. “What we’re seeing now in Lebanon and Iraq are trauma healing from the wounds of experienced by the refuges. All of them have stories to tell of running for their lives. Their hearts and souls are broken.” To fill that need, working with the American Bible Association, she’s launching a scripture-based trauma-healing program.
Doll also sees a substantial need for education. At this stage there are more Syrian refugee children than Lebanese children in Lebanon. However, there’s essentially no room for refugees in Lebanese schools. So many of these children have been out of school for three to four years, while others have never attended school. She emphasizes that, “We will have lost a generation” of uneducated refugees.
Sona: ISIS Has Done Us a Favor
Rev. Burgess asked Kazanjian about fears of middle-eastern refugees coming into our countries. “Should they be afraid?”
She implored her audience: “We are today in New York, we celebrate being Christians and saying we will not bow down to terrorism…We’re at a unique time in history. ISIS has done us a great favor. It has cracked (open) a dark mountain. For years, people were not allowed to ask ‘Who is God?’” Terrorism has prompted nations to question their faith, leaving them open to Christianity.
“We can slowly see the lights going through that dark mountain,” she says.
Kazanjian also believes that now is the time to act—for Christians to reach out to Muslim refugees. “The harvest is ready now. The harvest will not be waiting. If we don’t grab the harvest, it will die and dry.”
She continues, “The church needs to rise up and go and help and give the gospel to people,” she says. “We’re not doing it alone. God is at work.”
Right now every church in Lebanon and Iraq is fully engaged in refugee ministry. As the church we need to support them with our prayers and generosity, she says.
In 1987, Iraq was home to 1.4 million Christians. “There are only 200,000 to 300,000 Christians left in Iraq and they’re receiving shamefully little support from the Global Church,” she says. “In talking to them, they’re so grateful to be alive, but they wonder where in the world is the church?” during their time of extreme crisis.
“Has there ever been in our lifetime a more urgent time to live out our faith in a living God and to bring the light of the world to the beloved? Those created in his image are suffering unimaginably right now.”