Churches step in to help people fleeing chaos in Venezuela

Protestors and Police in VenezuelaReuters

Churches are offering practical and psychological help to people fleeing political and economic turmoil in Venezuela. 

Tearfund said its partner churches in Colombia have also been providing food and healthcare to Venezuelans arriving 'tired and hungry'. 

'There's nothing to eat or drink in the places they stay, and no electricity,' the humanitarian agency said

In addition, the churches are helping to take care of their children by finding places for them in schools and local daycare facilities, and providing safe spaces for them to play. 

'We thank God because the sadness we had inside is no longer that big,' said one refugee named only as Maria, who is staying in the 'Los Angeles' area of Barranquilla city.

'We know God is with us, that his light has accompanied us. Here is a church with a big heart that is helping us even though we're strangers to them.'

Tearfund warned that the ongoing crisis has prompted a 'mass exodus' of people from Venezuela, where millions have been plunged into poverty by a toxic mix of hyperinflation, power cuts, chronic food and medicine shortages, and political instability as Hugo Chavez's successor Nicolás Maduro clings to power.

At least 40 people are believed to have died in the unrest since January 21 but there are fears that the country is lurching towards civil war after an escalation in tensions over the country's leadership, with more nationwide demonstrations against Maduro scheduled for Saturday. 

According to Evangelical Focus, Pastor Samuel Olson, president of the Evangelical Council of Venezuela, is asking the nation's Christians to pray 'together as a family, asking God that through His Holy Spirit cares, directs and blesses our nation in this critical hour of its history'.

Tearfund has released this prayer for Christians to use for Venezuela:  

Father God,

We ask you to bring a peaceful resolution to the crisis in Venezuela. For the thousands who have fled to get help – would you keep them safe, healthy and hopeful. And for the friends and family they've had to leave behind, may they also have your protection and provision.
Let there be a quick and peaceful solution to the political conflict, without military intervention. And may Tearfund's partners continue to be able to support Venezuelans in Colombia.

In Jesus' name we pray, amen.