As 27,000 people flood in from Serbia, church and relief leaders rush relief and support.
Since Hungary closed its border on September 15, refugees from the Middle East have surged into Croatia. Christian churches and relief groups moved to the frontlines in the region providing emergency relief, shelter, and medical aid, supplementing Red Cross and government assistance.
As of Monday, more than 27,000 people have crossed into Croatia from Serbia.
Beli Manastir, a small border town in northeast Croatia, boasts a population of less than 11,000. Over the course of last Thursday night, 8,000 refugees—many from Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq—flooded across the border into a holding area prepared for no more than 1,000 people.
By Friday morning [Sept. 18], Beli Manastir had exploded with people, trash, and army cots scattered along the roadside and in parking lots. People huddled in the shade to escape the 97-degree heat. Many were asking two questions: “Do you have water?” and “How can we get to Zagreb?” From the Croatian capital, refugee families hope to gain access to Germany or other host nations for permanent resettlement.
Other refugees in Beli Manastir, frustrated by the lack of information, set off on foot toward Osijek, a larger city 20 miles away, without knowing where it was or how to get there.
Since hundreds of land mines still litter the forest on the side of the main road into Osijek, authorities worked quickly to pick up the refugees on route. By late afternoon, police came in force to organize the response. With them came fresh supplies of food, water, and Red Cross workers.
In several cases, the Christian response to aid refugees was immediate. Remar, a Christian humanitarian aid organization, helped distribute relief supplies in Tovarnik, another border town, late afternoon Thursday and they stayed until Sunday. In Harmica, a border town between Croatia and Slovenia, Remar’s rehabilitation house cared for refugees out of their facilities.
Some in the Christian community expected that the government and Red Cross would handle the situation. Many were caught off guard when the chaos overwhelmed small border towns.
In some border areas, the Christian response was slow in coming. But according to Hans Mannegren, the director of European Affairs with evangelist Billy Graham, “Every day gets better.”
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SOURCE: Christianity Today
Melody Wachsmuth in northeast Croatia