By a Pioneers In Europe Fieldworker
Of the more than 1.8 million refugees who crossed the EU’s borders in 2015, more than 90% are of Sunni Muslim background. The rich Muslim countries of the Persian Gulf have not offered to take in any refugees. As local doors closed to them, many people decided they would rather attempt the dangerous journey to Europe rather than subsist in impoverished, overcrowded refugee camps in the region.
When the crisis started, the majority of those on the move were men. However, since the start of 2016, women and children have made up the bulk of refugees. In the earlier years, the strong young men plunged into the unknown of Europe and now their families are following.
Refugees have often lost quite literally everything, arriving in Europe with the clothes they are wearing and a small backpack. All the refugees have been traumatized. They have seen war in their communities, suffered through bombings, seen violent killings, and lost family members, classmates and friends. Some reports indicate that 85% of women have experienced sexualized violence and 40% have been gang raped. Nearly 80% of all Syrian refugee children have experienced a death in their immediate families. Of all refugees, 40% have suicidal thoughts or have attempted suicide.
Not surprisingly, many of these Muslim background refugees are becoming disenchanted with Islam. First, they see that these wars have been ignited within Muslim majority nations—their present state of destitution is a direct result of warfare within the House of Islam. Second, they note that none of the rich Muslim countries are offering refuge to their brothers. It is the infidel countries of Europe and North America that offer aid in their time of need. Third, many refugees have been living for decades under Islamic rule and they feel disillusioned with this form of government.
Finally, and most significantly, they often become bitter that Islam is not offering them answers to the urgent life questions they now face:
“How could God let this happen?”
“Whose side is God on?”
And most often: “How do I find peace?”
Increasingly, miraculously, they are finding peace in Jesus. Many refugees freely give witness that in their desperation they have turned to Jesus in these dark hours of their lives and found what they are seeking—peace which passes all understanding, as well as forgiveness, grace, and meaning for their lives.
The current refugee crisis in Europe is a unique and unprecedented opportunity for the advancement of the Kingdom of God. Never before have millions of Muslims arrived so suddenly and unexpectedly in Western countries where there are few restrictions on speaking the Gospel. This is an open door for this generation to reach Muslim peoples as never before. Through personal, everyday contact, relationships between ordinary Muslims and ordinary Christians are flowering and Muslim background refugees throughout Europe are getting acquainted with Jesus.
Such once-in-a-generation opportunities are finite and don’t last forever. We are exhorted to make the most of every opportunity because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:15.) This is one of those God-given opportunities as He makes the way for a new generation of Muslim peoples to become followers of Jesus.