Christians are not the only group of people persecuted for their faith in the Middle East. Kurds have been a persecuted minority in Syria, Iraq, and Iran for centuries, and those who follow the Yezidi faith are considered devil worshippers by ISIS. Banding together at the outset of the civil war, Kurdish forces represent an independent faction fighting to retain control of a section of captured land they now call Kurdistan. Soran and Rona and their children are Yezidi Kurds staying at a refugee camp in Bulgaria. They fled Syria when a bomb destroyed their house, and are on their way to Germany. Since arriving at the camp, they have become very familiar with the Convoy of Hope Oasis Center, and come regularly for meals and other assistance. Since the Bulgarian government only offers refugees poor quality housing for three months, Soran wants to bring his family to Germany where they would be offered a two year stipend and an apartment for the family. Soran and Rona do not plan to stay in Germany indefinitely. Instead they hope to use their time to find work and save up money. They are already looking for the day the war will be over and they can return to Syria/Kurdistan and begin life anew.
While police authorities are restricting the refugee camp in Calais, in northern France, a new camp has formed over the past few months 20 kilometers away in the town of Dunkirk. Living conditions in Dunkirk are equally as rough as Calais, and with the new year, Convoy of Hope Europe has pledged to adopt this new area as well. New partnerships have made this additional effort a possibility, and a plan to implement many of the same services as are offered in Calais is already underway. With the frigid temperatures, stoves are going to be a priority for refugee families like Mahmoud’s, which recently arrived from Syria and is not accustomed to cold weather. Mahmoud is a violinist, who decided to flee with his wife and children after his brother was one of many brutally massacred in their city. Now, he plays Christian music on his violin and ministers to others at the camp until their application for asylum is reviewed. There are more families like Mahmoud’s arriving daily. The Syrian Refugee Crisis is the largest humanitarian crisis of our era, larger than from Hurricane Katrina, the Indonesian tsunami, and the Haiti earthquake combined. Over 12 million people have been displaced, injured, or otherwise in need of direct humanitarian assistance, and there is no end to the fighting in sight. As the number of refugees grows, our response will need to grow as well. To support this work with refugees across Europe and the Middle East, donate here! DONATE
A new year begins for Convoy of Hope Europe with continuing work with in the Jungle refugee camp of Calais, France. New police restrictions on the land that the refugees and migrants are allowed to occupy meant a large portion of the Christian community started in the camp needed to be moved. People in the newly restricted sections were given three days to move. With previous construction teams, basic wooden structures had been built to offer families some additional protection against the mud and the elements. Now, there was three days to move them before they would be destroyed. Another team from England mobilized quickly to help, and were able to get all of the residential huts moved. Through some discussion with the authorities, not everything had to be moved. Our team was given permission for the community center and kitchen to remain where they are. We are unsure of the future of the camp, but we are committed to assisting the people within for as long as it stands. With winter settled over the area, there remains a significant risk of freezing for those without blankets and warm clothing. Many families huddle together to maintain a sense of warmth, and Convoy of Hope Europe has been working to supply gas heaters and extra gas canisters to additional families that are still arriving daily.
In the Lugansk region of eastern Ukraine, separatist forces have taken control and declared Lugansk to be an independent republic. For over a year, the Ukrainian military has been fighting to retake the land. Eighty percent of the civilians in the area have fled the fighting, and the twenty percent remaining do so because they are unable to leave. Martha and Victor are in their nineties. Their only child, a daughter Tanya, was killed by an abusive husband many years ago and they have no other family. When the fighting in Eastern Ukraine began two years ago, they had nowhere to go. Now, they are two of the thousands that have no way to find food or basic care in an area where supply lines and their pensions have been blocked. Convoy of Hope Europe has been working to bring physical, social, and spiritual help to people in these communities affected by the war. When our team first met Martha and Victor, and offered to pray with them, Martha said “Pray to God for us to die on our feet. We are over 90 years old and have no one to take care of us.” The team ministered to Martha and Victor, and provided the couple with plenty of food and a much-needed medical exam. Now, Martha says the future looks much brighter. With tears in her eyes she said, “You have given us hope!”
Christmas came early to a number of families in the Jungle refugee camp outside of Calais, France! Volunteers from all over the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, and Belgium brought Christmas shoe boxes, music, food, and celebration to those who are struggling through the damp cold, mud, and rough living conditions. Many of these families have been in the camp for months as they wait for either the French or British government to make a decision on their refugee status, and welcomed the distraction from their troubles. 170 shoe boxes were distributed to children in the camp, and over 1,000 people were fed over the course of the afternoon in the church area as multiple singing groups performed in the Arabic, English, and Ethiopian languages. This celebration is a continuation of Convoy of Hope Europe’s commitment to bringing Hope to the refugees. Over the last few months, our construction teams have built shelters from the weather, distributed 100 butane stoves for cooking, thousands of rain ponchos, and provided laundry services to the community in the Jungle. As long as the Refugee Crisis continues, Convoy of Hope Europe will be taking steps to bring physical, social, and spiritual help to affected families.