Georgia's Church-Aided Refugees Ask 'Where Was God?'

Churches and Christian agencies are providing shelter and humanitarian aid to refugees from the crisis in Georgia.

According to Church World Service's emergency response program director, Donna Derr, many people are escaping the violence with literally only the clothes on their backs and are in need of food and shelter.

A member of Action by Churches Together International, CWS is supporting two local partners as well as other ACT members, including the Russian Orthodox Church and International Orthodox Christian Charities, to assist those affected by the conflict.

Russian Orthodox Church staffs have already begun delivery of relief assistance to refugees in North Ossetia, according to CWS in a report Thursday.

Initial relief supplies include food, clothes and medicine.

"We have more than 60 years of experience helping the most vulnerable populations recover from conflict," Derr said in a statement. "As our partners in the region begin to grasp with the effects of this violence, we stand ready to support them."

The United Nations estimates that as many as 100,000 people have been displaced by the conflict.

Local Orthodox churches and convents have also offered to take in the refugees. Many are said to be overcrowded with women and children while many fathers and older male children stay in South Ossetia to fight.

One convent director, known as Mother Nonna, said she never saw so many terrified children holding onto their mothers' skirts.

"The most difficult thing was to answer their question: Where was God?" she said, according to The Associated Press. "They had so much fear in their eyes."

The fighting began on Friday when Georgia ordered troops to stop the province of South Ossetia from seceding. In retaliation, Russia sent in forces to South Ossetia and bombed other areas in Georgia to support South Ossetia's desire to be independent from Georgia.

South Ossetia, which borders Russia, is predominantly made up of Russians. Although the province has an autonomous government, many South Ossetians still want to break away from Georgia to unite with the neighboring Russian province of North Ossetia.

On Friday, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili announced that he signed a cease-fire agreement that calls for the immediate withdrawal of all Russian forces from Georgian territory, according to CNN. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had brought the documents to Tbilisi, Georgia's capital and said she had been told that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will sign an identical pact.

Rice is scheduled to meet with President Bush at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, on Saturday to further discuss the situation. Bush has accused Russia of "bullying and intimidation" in its harsh military treatment of Georgia, according to AP.