A Recent Reflection
by Tom Atema
The good news is, ceasefires have restored calmness to some parts of Syria. The bad news is, the country of Syria lay in ruins and the conflict is still not over. The UN states that, in the first half of 2017 alone, 1.3 million Syrians were newly displaced. That’s an average of 7,000 people per day who were forced to flee their homes. Justifiably, the international community is concerned with restoring peace to Syria, as well as other locations worldwide. But the humanitarian situation there remains dire. The country of Syria itself cannot support its 5+ million citizens living as refugees in neighboring countries.
This Syrian civil war continues to be the world’s largest refugee crisis ever. Lebanon remains the host country to more Syrian refugees per capita than any other nation. Throughout this war the Lebanese people have continually shared resources and provided services on a scale rarely seen before. But after six years of things only getting worse, stress has marked this Middle-Eastern democratic nation. Lebanon has a unique problem. It is a 1st World country full of educated, hardworking, creative and passionate people. It is now the temporary home to 2+ million displaced people who are not legally allowed to get jobs, open bank accounts, or send their children to school. So now it has a 3rd World problem. Only a strategy unique to this situation will help.
The international community, both government agencies and private funds, have contributed financial support to the Syrian refugee response, but it is still falling short of the amount actually required to meet needs. I was told last week that only 49% of the funds available for refugee programs in Lebanon have been received so far in 2017. This is before administration fees. Most governments and NGOs have scaled back their work due to this funding shortfall, and a good number have stopped all together.
Heart for Lebanon has a unique strategy to meet the Syrian refugee need at the most basic level. It starts with a bag of food. It’s supplemental – not including meats, dairy products, or fresh vegetables – but it’s a start. The interaction between our Team of local Lebanese citizens and the refugees receiving these bags of food opens the door to relational engagement. People want to tell their story to someone they can trust. That trust grows over months of consistently showing up, meeting needs, and genuine conversation. And because this work is done by local Lebanese citizens, they know and respect the cultural differences of the Middle East.
Without continual prayer and financial support from international Believers, all the gains that have been made so far are at risk of stalling out. Not because we are not making a budget – but because there is so much more we could and should be doing! When the power of prayer is combined with financial resources, God does miraculous things.
Syrian refugees need to know that they are loved, respected, and have worth – not just for the moment but for eternity. It’s key! The church, followers of Jesus, have a responsibility to bring compassion, love, and hope that will lead to peace and stability. If not externally then at least internally. It is critical that we continue to invest in each Syrian refugee family and the host community of Lebanon. The gap created by governmental and NGOs backing out is substantial. We are seeking substantially more prayers and funding to help more people have Hope in Jesus Christ. Please join us in prayer that we might be able to fill this gap before 2017 is over.
On behalf of the Field Team, the Syrian refugees, Camille, and myself – thank you! May God richly bless you as we enter this season of Thanksgiving.