Bibles, Aid Being Distributed to N. African Refugees

The Evangelical Alliance Italy is distributing aid and Bibles to tens of thousands of refugees who have fled North African countries in recent months.

The alliance is supporting migrants gathered on the island of Lampedusa and in a refugee camp in Mineo, Sicily.

Lampedusa lies around 75 miles from the Tunisian coast and is a common arrival point for North African migrants hoping to enter Europe. The island is struggling to cope with the influx of migrants from North Africa fleeing upheaval in the region.

Many of the 20,000 migrants estimated to have arrived in Italy in the last few months have been relocated but there are around 6,000 migrants still on the small island, many of them Tunisian.

Mass emigration began after Tunisia's longtime dictator, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali stepped down in January. Protests had erupted in December over the lack of freedom, high unemployment and corruption after a vendor set himself on fire.

Italy is working on issuing temporary permits to the immigrants to allow them to travel within Europe. But some countries, including Germany and France, have rejcted the plan.

Teams of volunteers have been sent by the Evangelical Alliance Italy to work alongside local authorities in facilitating the relationship between the refugee community and the local people. The volunteers will also distribute aid, including Bibles and other Gospel literature, and witness to the refugees of the love of Christ in appropriate ways.

The alliance is appealing for prayers for the thousands of migrants who face an “uncertain future.”

“It is estimated that more than 50,000 migrants will come to the shores of Italy. What a challenge and what an opportunity,” it said.

The alliance said it was encouraging a joint effort in the provision of humanitarian aid and cultural mediation “in the hope that God will open further Gospel opportunities.”

“We ask for the prayers and cooperation of the international evangelical community to help us respond.”

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