Four years into a multi-faceted and sustained response to “the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era,” the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is continuing its efforts to serve Syrian refugees through field personnel and ministry partners in five countries.
Belgium-based field personnel Janée Angel is working for the safe passage of 90 Syrian Christians seeking asylum in Belgium through her partnership with Gave Veste, which is a local nongovernmental organization helping churches and Christian groups to welcome and meet the needs of refugees.
Gave Veste is leading the effort to raise support for and secure the safe passage of these families.
The United Nations has been unable to assist them because they are not legally considered refugees until they are able to escape to another country, Angel said.
“Since a person cannot be considered a refugee until they leave their country, Syria’s poorest have been unable to get out due to a lack of funds and know how,” Angel said. “This way allows some of those who are still trapped in the war a way out.”
More than 5 million people have fled Syria since the outbreak of civil war in 2011, seeking safety in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Iraq and Europe. Millions more have been internally displaced as the violence continues and living conditions worsen in Syria. In 2015, more than 1 million people sought asylum in Europe, marking the largest influx of refugees to the continent since the conclusion of World War II.
Over the past 11 years, Angel has been in Belgium, living and working with Arabic-speaking people alongside her husband, Hary Khano, a Syrian native and church planter. Together, they lead the only Protestant Arabic church in Belgium outside Brussels — one of just three Protestant Arabic churches in the entire country.
“They go without electricity for much of the day. They walk miles to get fresh drinking water each day. The price of food has gone up so much that they can’t even afford a pound of meat. And, of course, living with the daily threat of dying has done nothing for their emotions.”
Outreach to refugees and immigrants has been a vital part of their ministry in recent years, and Angel, with the support of CBF, has responded to the Syrian refugee crisis, welcoming newcomers to Antwerp with “Backpacks for Life” — bags filled with toiletries and other necessities, water bottles, snacks, gloves, scarves, hats and chocolates.
The Fellowship has provided $20,000 to Angel for her ongoing efforts, and has contributed more than $110,000 toward Syrian refugee relief since 2013.
For Angel and Khano, the war in Syria is part of their daily reality as 20 members of Khano’s family remain trapped in Syria, living in dire conditions despite the couple’s persistent efforts to help them escape.
“They go without electricity for much of the day,” Angel said. “They walk miles to get fresh drinking water each day. The price of food has gone up so much that they can’t even afford a pound of meat. And, of course, living with the daily threat of dying has done nothing for their emotions.”
Members of Khano’s family will be part of the group of 90 Syrian Christians who make their way to Belgium in the coming weeks and months through the efforts of Gave Veste and Angel. Once in Belgium, these asylum seekers will receive assistance adjusting to their new life, language and work.
“Every step has to be organized, planned and prepared for,” Angel said. “There has to be a welcome once they get here. They have lived through hell for years, and are worthy of rest and peace.”
Angel and Khano’s church will lead in the creation of a welcoming committee, hosting meals and special events for the newcomers.
“We want to give them a place to heal and be loved,” Angel said. “Working together as the body of Christ is what will make this happen.”
CBF Global Missions Associate Coordinator Sam Harrell said it’s a privilege to serve these Syrian families.
“Refugees are not nameless faces,” he said. “They are people with families and friends and many who love them and are concerned for their welfare.”
CBF Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter said it’s a moment of thanks for the Fellowship.
“We are so grateful to partner with Janée as her daily ministry blossoms into an extraordinary moment of hope and transformation,” Paynter said. “The families blessed to make this trek toward an unknown future will be greeted with hope born of Christ-like care.”
Angel and her European partners need about $79,000 to provide these Syrian families with transportation out of the war-torn country, food, shelter, hygiene items and other necessities during an anticipated nine-month period. With CBF’s contribution, nearly $60,000 is still needed to ensure the safe passage and relief for all 90 Syrian Christians.