by Tom Atema
In an article I read, it was stated that it was nearly impossible for the refugees living in Lebanon to return to Syria safely. This is mainly due to political reasons (the worsening disputes with the Syrian regime). Yet as I have traveled in the last several months, I sense a growing excitement from Christians in the west that the Syrians are returning home from Lebanon. How can we be on such a different page than what is really going on in the Middle East?
True, the fighting has significantly slowed down. We aren’t seeing or hearing of bombings and air raids every other day like we used to. But trust me, there is still a war going on inside Syria’s borders. What’s interesting is that recently the UN has said Syria will not be livable for 50 years. So even if the war stopped today… there is nothing for the Syrian people to return to right away.
As Americans we love to fix things, finish things, and then move on to the next project. So when we hear that people are returning to Syria we think this crisis is over! And we move on. But we can’t move on so fast – and here’s why…
First let me ask a question. Why are we in such a hurry for the displaced Syrian people to go home? I hope they do go home someday, and everyday the team at Heart for Lebanon is working very hard to make sure they can. But not until all the Syrian refugees in Lebanon have an opportunity to meet Jesus Christ and not until we have time to disciple them so they can have an unwavering Biblical character before they return. With a fair amount of time before its safe to return to Syria, we should be pouring all the resources we can into the lives of these displaced people, helping them to know Jesus, have hope, and prepare them for a life of following Him.
This is our opportunity to chance the cycle of hatred in Syria for good. To use the church in Syria as the cornerstone of the rebuilding process. To show what it means to literally love thy neighbor. What could the church in Syria accomplish with a team of solid Muslim Born Believers who have been created new in Christ? Who have a Biblical worldview infused into their everyday lives that is evident by community leaders serving others rather than dictating? This is a new model for Syria, which is very possible!
So yes! Let’s be in a hurry! But to support them, disciple them, and develop them. Let’s not be in a hurry to send them back to a home that doesn’t exist or to a country where they will flounder in their new faith. To me, this should be the Christian response to the Syrian Civil war. Let’s care about the individuals affected before we care about what the headlines say.