Missionary Paul Choi (Director of InterCP)
- Root of the Syrian Refugee Crisis
The Syrian Civil War was amplified by the Islamic extremist group ISIS, but the root of the civil war is more political than religious. The refugee crisis, which instigated the outbreak of 11 million refugees, arose because of international political problems rather than for religious reasons. Moreover, the consequences of this crisis are profound and have had a serious impact on international politics.
The Syrian Civil War started because of the political interests of the United States and other western countries to get rid of Assad’s regime in Syria. The last operation of the Middle East Democratization project was to remove Assad’s regime in Syria. The Middle East Democratization Movement started in 2011. As a result of the movement, the leaders of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya were ousted. Before this, Iraq’s leader Saddam Hussein was ousted from power in 2003. All the ousted leaders in the Middle East were from countries that had presidential systems. Countries that had monarchies were not impacted at all. Why were the leaders of more democratized countries with presidential systems and national elections ousted while the leaders of monocratic states with absolute dictatorship remained intact? The monarchies have Islam as their foundation and are hereditary monarchies, whereas the republics have Arab nationalism as their foundation and are western-like, modern states. The result of the wave of democratization, also known as the Arab Spring, was the elimination of Middle Eastern leaders who aimed for a western-like, modern state. Afterwards, Islamic forces either seized power or were strengthened in the countries in which these leaders came from.
Why were the dictators of these monarchies left alone, while the leaders of relatively democratized countries ousted under the pretext of ‘democratization’? This is how we can know that the Democratization of the Middle East is a project. These leaders are Arab nationalists with a military background that refuse to become subordinate to western powers.
The western powers gave military support to the Islamic forces in Syria to get rid of the remaining President Assad of Syria. For the past thirty years, Assad’s regime strongly oppressed the Sunni Islamic forces within the country and has had a tight control over Islamic forces. However, in August 2014, a portion of the Islamic forces that were in an armed struggle with the United States’ support against Assad’s regime all of a sudden formed ISIS. As this group formed ISIS, this group began to dominate northern Syria and northern Iraq and declared a new Islamic Caliphate. Because of this new situation, Obama’s U.S. administration took military action to get rid of ISIS and the war against ISIS still continues now.
Saddam Hussein of Iraq protected the Christian minority group in Iraq from the majority Islamic forces. We have to take note that the Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz of Saddam Hussein’s regime was Christian. President Assad of Syria had a hard-line policy against the Islamic forces, and acknowledged the Christian minority within Syria as ruling partners and assigned these Christians to important cabinet positions. The Syrian civil war was started because the Islamic forces and western forces wanted to get rid of the last Arab nationalistic military regime, which was Assad’s regime. As a result of this, the pro-Christian regime of Assad was wiped out and the Islamic forces gained power. Moreover, the Christian minority groups in Syria were passing through pitch-black tunnels and more than 10 million refugees have left their homes, wandering to survive.
- The Debate about the Syrian Refugee Crisis and the Identity of Europe
The impact that the Syrian refugee crisis has had on the international community is immense, and the European Union is close to dissolving.
As a result of the war between the Syrian government’s forces and the Islamic forces that received US military support, as well as the extremist forces of ISIS, there have been more than half a million casualties and 10 million refugees, of which 5 million are still within the country. In Syria’s surrounding countries, there are a total of 6 million refugees with 3 million in Turkey, 1.2 million in Jordan and 1.5 million in Lebanon. In the first four or five years, the refugees resided in makeshift tent settlements near the border. But as these refugees faced extreme restrictions, they started to attempt to move to Europe. The European countries were concerned about the chaos that the influx of war refugees would bring upon European society. Accordingly, European countries started to reinforce European borders (Schengen) and made the decision to completely close borders to war refugees. At the same time, there were more internal criticisms against the EU’s measures. Thus, the UK decided to leave the EU.
German Chancellor Merkel argued that Europe must protect universal humanitarian values that Europe has held thus far. Nonetheless, the UK opposed the bringing in of refugees, arguing that the country cannot co-exist with the Islamic extremism and that there is an increased risk in terrorism. Italy, France and Eastern European countries also expressed their opposition in accepting refugees and the debate of Europe’s identity was intensified. Furthermore, because of this, the UK decided to leave the EU.
The Syrian refugee crisis turned into a debate about universal humanitarian values, making the debate not only a debate about the identity of Europe, but a debate about the state identity of the US.
Obama and Hillary of the Democratic Party that traditionally emphasized universal values such as human rights, democracy etc. argued that the US must take active leadership to protect these universal values. However, the ‘outsider’ Trump, who abruptly appeared in this political stage, advocated American state nationalism, arguing that he will reinforce realistic policies that will have only the state’s profit in mind.
Trump argued that the US has excessively intervened in too many problems that happened throughout the world, resulting in an increase in administrative expenses that made the US economy suffer. Trump stated, “North Korea is attacking Japan? It is a problem between North Korea and Japan. It has nothing to do with America!” Trump welcomed the Brexit situation and insisted that international political and economic alliances such as the UN, NAFTA, NATO, FTT are not completely necessary. In other words, Trump is saying that the US will not be the administrator of the international community. During Trump’s campaign for the presidential elections, he made it clear that he would ‘reset’ all international relations with a strict economic interest in mind. Trump was saying that the US would now breakaway from its traditional values that used to emphasize working for ‘the peace and freedom of the world’.
President Trump of the US said ‘Countries need to figure out their affairs on their own. The US will not intervene whether or not neighboring countries have wars.’ However, Kim Jong-un of North Korea did not understand Trump clearly. Kim, out of old habits, denounced the US that it was imperialistic. As a response, Trump has started to go after North Korea. Kim did not understand the precondition of ‘if countries do not challenge the United States’ in Trump’s statement of no-interference. Kim overlooked the fact that President Trump had a strong ‘pride of an empire’.
This overall trend also put a break to the accepting of Muslims in the US. The US stated that the country will not accept Muslims that could increase the risk of terror within the country.
- Reality of Syrian Refugees
The migration of Syrian refugees to Europe happened because the European Union decided to accommodate the Yazidis, a minority people group of northern Iraq. The Yazidis are non-Muslims in Iraq who have received criticism that they are Satan worshippers in the Middle East. In 2014, ISIS took over northern Iraq and declared the second greatest city in Iraq, Mosul, as is its capital. ISIS tried to wipe out the Yazidis in the neighboring regions. They killed the men, used the women as slaves, and used the girls as sex slaves for ISIS fighters or sold them as sex slaves on the market. As this news was released to the international society, the world was infuriated.
The Yazidis who have survived and escaped relocated to the refugee camps in Diyarbakır, Eastern Turkey. Through the help of others, they were able to move to Europe by land and the EU accommodated them.
Later, the Syrian refugees within Turkey started to follow the migration path of the Yazidis and headed towards the Turkish borders next to Western Europe. When the government blocked the land passages, they attempted to move across the Aegean Sea into Greece.
As such, the Syrian refugees could not bear refugee life for long and started to leave the refugee camps along the Syrian border and have started to migrate into Europe and are crowding cities close to the European border along western Turkey. Many refugees have died while trying to cross the Aegean Sea in boats in order to enter into Greece. On the border of Bulgaria, there are non-governmental squads that “hunt” refugees. They ride motorcycles and shoot at refugees with guns. Even so, refugees use all their might to cross the seas and come to Europe.
In the midst of the refugees, there are ISIS fighters who entered into Europe and committed terrorist attacks in the public places of Paris. This became a reason for Europeans to reject refugees and the European public perception of refugees has worsened.
Eventually, the EU offered 30 hundred million Euros to the Turkish government under the condition that Turkey will keep the refugees within their nation. Turkey accepted the offer. Now the Turkish police and army are blocking the migration of refugees across Europe. In Istanbul etc, refugees are living with the cities of Turkey.
This is true in Jordan and Lebanon as well. Many refugees are still living in poor conditions in the refugee camps of Lebanon. The UN has been supporting the Jordan and Lebanon refugees, but due to the extended refugee crisis, the situation is not getting any better. So far the UN and international NGOs have continued refugee support but they focus on the local people in conflict regions.
There is also a national refugee camp run by the Turkish government, but in reality it is a prison which upon entrance, there is no escape. Food and clothes are distributed within the camp, but there is no freedom. Therefore, most refugees choose to freely roam the streets on an empty stomach.
The problem is the children and youth. They have been spending their teenage years in the refugee camps and the streets, without any education. They grow older in age without proper teaching. Our missionaries first teach music and art to the refugee children. Having witnessed the death of their father, uncle, brother first-hand, the children have a lot of hurt. They need rehabilitation programs. Children are being healed through music, art, and sports.
Missionaries teach how to write Arabic to the children who know how to speak it but do not know how to write it. They also teach English.
English education will allow the children to communicate with the world later on. Then the children will be able to look at the reality of the world with a broad perspective and be restored. They can also enhance their communication skills and leadership within the international community and lead their nation to stand up once again.
There is also a desperate medical need. So medical teams and oriental medicine teams visit the refugees and provide health services.
Intercessory prayer teams and spiritually gifted power ministry teams join the medical teams and pray for the souls that are in suffering and share the Gospel of life. Through this ministry, many refugees are returning to the Lord. Since many of them escaped the attacks of Islamic forces, they have resentment towards Islam as a religion. Most are poor in spirit as they have lived as refugees for a long time and their hope of migrating to Europe was diminished. To the refugees in suffering, Christ’s Gospel of life is working powerfully.
This is an opportune moment. These refugees whom the world governments consider as burdensome and are rejecting, they need to be embraced and served by the global church. Right now, even the smallest service will become a great comfort and strength to the refugees. Frontier missionaries say that war and civil conflict actually provide opportunities for national revival. Souls who have lost their land and long-held foundation turn to seek God’s mercy. But once the situation is resolved and the nation finds stability, people’s hearts will become hardened. Refugee ministry is like an hour glass; it is time-sensitive. As evangelism, the opportunity for mission is not always open. “Lord, where are you going?” The people who follow Jesus are his disciples. True disciples are wherever where Jesus is.
One’s possessions and spiritual giftings are never for oneself. “The Lord needs them.” For this word spoken by Jesus to be alive and active in us, we must be awake and in prayer.
The cause of Islamic terrorism is not religious but social. But the doctrines of Islamic religion justify terrorism, therefore making it uncontrollable even with the intervention of the international society. Sooner or later, ISIS will be thrown out of Syria. But Islamic terrorism will continue to spread globally. Terrorists groups like ISIS will continue to evolve but there will be more “lone wolves” that will make the world more chaotic with unpredictable terrorist attacks.
Global terrorism caused by young Muslims has expanded through the advancement of the global market economy system. Economic disparity is increasing and is beyond the divide of 20:80; the reality now is that only 10 of the wealthiest people possess as much wealth as 35 hundred million people, half of the world’s population. Even in these extreme conditions, there is no logic to suppress the recent global market economy system. Some may say that communism that dissolves capitalism is the answer, but communism failed with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Intellectuals sought Anthony Giddens’ ‘third day’, but this also could not work in reality.
Young adults in Europe and other developed countries cannot get employed even after graduating from college. They move from one part-time job to the next and live exhausted lives. Most young people who join ISIS do not even know what the Islamic faith is.
In the past, people who were disgusted by society comforted themselves with alcohol or drugs and they eventually died. But young adults now who are in deep despair to the extreme have found a new outlet through global terrorism. “Rather than just killing myself, let’s kill them all!” They blame global leaders and lead global resistance movements against world systems. Filled with fury against the world’s system, they commit indiscriminate terrorism.
Recently ISIS has been attempting to put bombs onto drones for terrorism. They simply purchase drones like a toy for 500 US dollars, then they do not even have to commit suicide. Islamic terrorism nowadays is merciless, violent, and is endlessly evolving. The world environment is becoming the soil for global terrorism. The teachings of the Koran, which include Jihad, and Islamic idealogy are becoming the nutrients for terrorism.
But spiritualy speaking, such a global phenomenon began 4000 years ago from the family of Abraham; the conflict between the brothers Issac and Ishmael has grown globally and from a biblical standpoint, it is eschatological. (Genesis 16:10-12)
As long as there is a merciless, cruel global market system, the world will see a greater expansion of terrorism. The only way to stop this is through a global surveillance system in which a biological system is implanted into every single individual in the world and each person is monitored 24/7 through satellite. This is why recent EU and G7, G20 meetings have had continual discussions about the so-called Global Security System. (1 Peter 5:1-3; Revelation 13:16-17)
We are living in times when people do not know where to go and their souls are filled with deep sadness and anger. Darkness is thickening and the 4th empire, the “Age of the Beast” is coming. But history moves on. We have an eternal kingdom that cannot be shaken; an eternal empire is coming (Daniel 7:1-28, Daniel 2:31-45). In any case, history advances according to the prophetic instructions of God. And the end of history will come (Matthew 24:14).
Christians! Let us discern the times and arise! Let us put aside ambition and worldly greed and seek first the Kingdom and His righteousness. Let us have the heavenly Father’s heart and look towards our suffering neighbors and pray for the Syrian refugees.