N. African refugees: Crisis & opportunity

Baptist Press
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Posted: Mar 02, 2011 5:30 PM
NORTH AFRICA (BP)--Jim Green* has been on his knees for North Africa, praying for the past five years that God would "rebuild a highway of righteousness from Gibraltar to Jerusalem." He's been leading the rest of his prayer network of believers to do the same.

"The Holy Spirit directed our attention on this region and its peoples, because now was His time for this region to see change," Green said.

Now, he said, in the midst of all the unrest and revolution, that "highway" is opening up. And whatever form it takes, one thing's for sure: The borders of the North African nations of Tunisia, Egypt and especially Libya are bursting with masses of people wanting to get somewhere.

REFUGEE CRISIS

According to various international news reports, about 2,000 people every hour are crossing from Libya, scene of the most violent uprisings in recent weeks, into Tunisia. And at least 140,000 have crossed from Tunisia on into Egypt, fleeing the terrors of their home country.

Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi -- in power since 1969 -- has lost some ground in his country to anti-government rebels, but not without a bloody fight. An estimated 1,000 people have died since protests began Feb. 16, making Tunisia and Egypt -- themselves political hot spots -- look like safe havens.

They aren't the only nations absorbing refugees.

Hundreds have flooded Mediterranean islands like Malta and others have entered Italy.

"More than 6,000 Tunisians have already arrived as well as hundreds of Egyptians and many more are expected," said Jack Foreman*, a Southern Baptist representative in Italy. "Some are saying as many as 80,000 might attempt to reach Italy during these unsettling times in these North African countries."

Right now in Italy, refugees are held in government camps until arrangements are decided, but Foreman said his prayer is that he and others will have unprecedented opportunities in the coming weeks to minister to North Africans brought right to his doorstep by the winds of political change -- or the highway of it.

Foreman and others ask for prayer:

-- For wisdom within the governments as they make decisions regarding refugees.

-- For Baptists in Europe as they seek to reach out to refugees flooding into their countries.

-- For Christians providing meals to refugees as they make their way across North Africa.

-- That God will use this as a time of new opportunities as the people of North Africa are scattered to other countries.

-- That the Gospel will be proclaimed among these Northern African peoples.

*Names have been changed. Ava Thomas is an International Mission Board writer/editor based in Europe.

Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net