Syria Refugee Crisis

More news from Syria refugees crisis. This article is taken from the website of Christian Aid.

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An Insider’s Glimpse into the Syrian Refugee Crisis

October 24, 2013

Many Syrian refugees who escape across the border into Lebanon end up living in ramshackle camps like this one in the Bekaa Valley.

Much has been reported about the plight of Syrian Muslims who are fleeing their country, but how has the war impacted Christian refugees? In an emotional interview with Christian Aid Mission staff, the leader of a Lebanon-based ministry shares refugee accounts that broke his heart—and gave him hope for a brighter future.

Q: How do you minister to the refugees given their very difficult circumstances and challenges?

A: Most of the time we sit and talk and we pray with them. It’s really hard. I know we can’t save the world, but we do as much as we can. We just do whatever we can. People come knocking on the door and say “Please, let us in. It’s okay; we will sit on the floor. Give us just a roof. We don’t want anything else.” Or people will say, “Do you have any clothing for us because we left Syria with nothing.” As we are able to serve meals, we do it. We try to do it weekly. If we are able to offer more food, we do it. We never provide meals according to a schedule. We never store food on the shelf. Whatever we have, we cook, and the refugees help us.

Q: What is the current situation inside Syria and with the refugees in Lebanon?

A: What’s happening now is the persecution that the Christian people are experiencing, especially in the areas of Maaloula and Aleppo. It’s a huge problem now. So they leave Syria with whatever they have on them. They just leave. A country like Lebanon is very small and there’s nothing that the government is doing to help the refugees. Where we work in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, there are no more empty spots available. The fields are full. It’s overwhelming with all the children and families. A huge disaster.

I visited one of the families. There were about 25 to 30 people. When I came in the room, I literally thought they were having the Lord’s Supper, the way they were eating. They were handing each other a slice of bread and each one was taking a piece. This is how bad off they are. In Beirut too, any house that already had one or two refugee families living there, now they have more people in the same house.

I have lived through war, I’ve lived with disasters, but I have never seen it this bad. The main thing now is to stand with believers that we know are being persecuted.

Q: How are Christians in Syria coping?

A: The hardest thing is communication. They don’t go out much. There is a big loneliness; they feel that they are alone and nobody thinks of them. They are scared and they think they are alone in this whole situation. One man said, “Someone burned the Koran and they [the media] made a big story out of it. We have people we bury every day who are Christians. Why can’t we do something about that?” It’s true we are not the kind of people who are an "eye for an eye" and a "tooth for a tooth." No. The encouraging thing is we are seeing God working, even though things are hard.

Q: Can you share with us the personal stories of some of the families?

Perhaps the greatest tragedy of the war is its effect on Syria’s children.

A: This is a very conservative number I’m saying, but I met at least 15 to 20 kids with no mom and no dad left for them. Their parents died when they were in Syria, and the children were taken out by others who were fleeing. One Christian brother in Lebanon mentioned his mom didn’t want to leave Syria because she told him, “If we leave, they’re going to take everything.” He tried to convince her and other family members to leave. He couldn’t. By the time they were talking about leaving, men came into the house and killed them all, just because they are Christians. They were wonderful believers, a wonderful family. This man lost his whole family. His mom, his dad, his grandma, and all his brothers. Nine people were killed that day.

They were killed in a part of Syria that was supposed to be safe. Any area where Christians are, they are being targeted. They [rebels] come in, they massacre people, and they leave. The same thing they did in Maaloula. They came in for two days, they massacred people, and then they left. Maaloula is an area where there are Catholic and Orthodox believers. There’s no fighting there. I don’t know. It’s hard to say where there is a safe area for Christians in Syria any more.

Q: Are the rebels targeting Christians differently than they would Alawite or Shiite?

A: Yes, because they slaughter Christians. They don’t shoot them. That’s how you know the difference.

Q: Do you recommend Christians just leave Syria?

A: In situations like this, you cannot recommend anyone leave or stay. For two reasons. When you leave, you lose everything. I remember every time we left our house during the war in Lebanon, it was broken into and people took everything. That’s really what the rebels want people to do. They want to scare people out, and when families are out, the rebels steal. That’s why they kill families, to scare the neighborhood. They want to make people leave. And at the same time if they don’t leave, they are jeopardizing their lives. And what do you do when you have two kids, three kids, babies? You don’t want to go to a place where you can’t find work, where you’re not welcome, where nobody’s doing anything to help you.

Q: What are you and your ministry doing to help the refugees? What are some specific ways that you are providing assistance to them?

A ministry in Lebanon is reaching out to both Muslim and Christian refugees to provide food packages, medicine, bedding materials, and other essentials.

A: We are opening now several camps that I know of but the only thing is we cannot open them too much to the public because we will be suddenly overwhelmed. But some of the places we are keeping for believers. So far we have more than 6,000 people who are Christians that have tents and small places to stay where they are sharing bathrooms and such. This is in the mountains in Lebanon. We are trying to help them as much as possible with food and medical assistance. The other area where we are working is in the Bekaa Valley. We have some Christians there—around 2,000 people. There are no places left in Beirut. It’s horrible there. Refugees that went to Tripoli in northern Lebanon are fleeing now because of what’s happening there between the Sunnis and the Shiites. So they are either going to Beirut or into the mountains.

Q: In your mind, do you see the refugee situation as something that is bringing many thousands, even hundreds of thousands of Muslims to Christ?

A: I wouldn’t say hundreds of thousands, but I have seen thousands personally. On a recent trip I prayed and I cried with so many people—more than in my entire life, my entire ministry. That’s for sure I can tell you. We have meetings in several churches. You see Muslims coming on Wednesdays, on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. They want to be a part of it.

One Sunday when I was there we had 200 people in a room. We said, “Okay, you know that we are Christians and we believe in Jesus and we would like to pray for you.” We shared the gospel with them. I’ve never seen so many people praying at the same time in my life, ever. All of them were Muslims. We said, “Do you want to give your life to Jesus?” They said, "Yes," and they prayed. I don’t know if it’s because we were there, but I know they need Jesus. That’s all I know. That’s the maximum we can give them.

Q: Do they tell other Muslims they are Christians, or do they keep it to themselves?

Christians face intense persecution as the war rages on in Syria.

A: It depends where, with whom. I was in Beirut visiting with one of the Syrian families. There were about 35 to 40 people in that small house. A guy came in and said, “You are the one who is converting them to Christianity.” He was angry with me and he was looking at everybody and shouting at them. That gives you an example of how they share with others what they have seen and what they have prayed. That’s how it is happening. Some people share their faith, some don’t. But a lot of them come back to us and help us out.

Q: How do you share your faith with the refugees?

A: We definitely share the gospel with them. We offer them a New Testament. If they say no, we don’t give it. Some are saying, “We don’t read.” This is when audio materials are useful. Sometimes we visit carrying nothing and say, “Hi, I’m just here to see you.” One Muslim man said to me, “Can you come and pray with my wife. I think she is going into labor.” I didn’t know what to pray for. She was in labor. I said, “We will have to take your wife to the hospital.” Of course they cannot afford it. I said, “No problem, let’s go.” So I was praying with her on the way. We got her to the hospital. She had a boy. Guess what they named him? Yes, my name.

Can you imagine? And this was a Muslim family. (choking back tears) All of this is really too much [to handle]. But God is good. We should focus on that. God is good. We need to stand next to the believers. We are there for them. We are there.

How you can help Syrian refugees:

Pray

  • For refugee families, as they have experienced the horrors of war and face immense challenges in the countries where they have relocated. Pray that their hearts will be open to hear and receive the love of Jesus Christ.
  • For encouragement and strength for the Lebanese ministry workers who feel emotionally overwhelmed.
  • For Christians who have chosen to remain in Syria—for their safety, for God’s provision to meet their physical and emotional needs, and that they will be lights for Christ in the midst of the darkness that surrounds them.

Give

Material Needs

  • Food package for one family for a week ($80)
  • Mattress, blanket, pillow ($50)
  • Shoes and clothing ($10)
  • Medicine ($5)

Shelter

  • Plastic tarp ($300-$500). Families use this covering to waterproof their tents, which are made of wood and scrap metal.
  • Heaters ($30-$40) depending on whether the appliance uses diesel fuel or wood. Cold weather will be setting in soon. The ministry is requesting at least 200 heaters, one per family.

Evangelistic Outreach

  • New Testaments/CDs ($5 each). Believers still living in Syria would like to use these materials for evangelism among the rebels.
  • Monthly living expenses for gospel workers in Syria

One Third of Syrian Christians Gone From Syria

One Third of Syrian Christians are gone, says cleric.

Oct 24 2013Oct 24 2013
Patriarch claims more than 450,000 have fled, but opinions vary
Christians have fled on mass from their homes in places such as the historic city of Maaloula.
Almost a third of Syria’s Christians have left since the start of the civil war, according to one of the country’s senior clerics.
Syria’s most senior Catholic leader Gregorios III Laham, the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch, told the BBC that more than 450,000 of Syria’s estimated 1.75 million Christians have gone.
However, he said he remained sure that Syria’s Christian community would survive. The precise number of Christians in Syria is open to debate, as is the number of those who have left the country.
A spokesperson for Open Doors International, an organisation which supports Christians under pressure for their faith, says he thinks the figure for those who’ve left may be significantly lower.
There is some debate about the number of Christians in Syria at the beginning of the civil war. Suggestions that Christians amounted to around 8 per cent of the population are thought optimistic by some. And of those Syrians known to have left the country – whether to refugee camps in neighbouring countries, or further afield – the percentage of Christians is believed to be lower than 8 per cent.
Patriarch Gregorios spoke at the London launch of a new report on Thursday (October 17), which claimed that the persecution of Christians is worsening globally.
Catholic international aid agency Aid to the Church in Need’s 2013 Persecuted and Forgotten? claims that an exodus of Christians from many countries threatens Christianity’s status as a worldwide religion. The worst problems, according to the report, are found in North Korea and Eritrea.
“The principal finding of the report is that in two-thirds of the countries where persecution of Christians is most severe, the problems have become arguably even worse,” said John Pontifex, one of the report’s authors. “In fact the Church’s very survival in some parts – notably the Middle East – is now at stake.”
The report suggests that the Arab Spring has turned into the ‘Christian Winter’, with political upheavals proving particularly costly for the Christian minority in the Middle East.
“From all accounts, the incidents of persecution are now apparently relentless and worsening; churches being burnt, Christians under pressure to convert, mob violence against Christian homes, abduction and rape of Christian girls, anti-Christian propaganda in the media and from Government, discrimination in schools and the workplace… The list goes on,” said Pontifex.

Why I am against American intervention in Syria

1. We are not the world's police. America cannot and should not seek to police the world's moral and military problems. There are even more serious cases of oppression and cruelty in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Darfur, and North Korean - where does it stop? 2. Jesus' command to be peacemakers applies to governments not just individuals.

3. Many more innocent people will die.

4. It will enlarge the war that is now spreading to other countries in the Middle East. It will draw Iran more deeply into the conflict, and could cause acts of violence against other nations.

5. It will hinder the spread of the good news of Jesus.

6. It will further endanger the lives of indigenous believers in Syria and other Middle Eastern countries.

7. It will disrupt and bring disrepute to thousands of missionaries, Christian aid workers, church planters and pastors who serve in the name of Jesus.

8. It will make America and it's actions "the issue" rather than the atrocities committed by the Syrian government.

9. It will increase hate and fear instead of love and faith for Arabs and Palestinians; people will take sides against those we are called to reach with the good news.

10. Syrian refugees are suffering. The attention of the world should be upon those that can be helped In the refugee camps. There are 1.9 million Syrian refugees, and almost 1,000,000 of them are children!! While we debate about America's actions the poor continue to suffer.

Facts About Syria

(CNN) -- Syria is a Middle Eastern country sharing a border with Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey. The Syrian uprising began in March 2011. As of June 2013, more than 90,000 Syrians have been killed, according to the United Nations. About Syria: (from the CIA World Factbook) Land Area: 185,180 sq km, slightly larger than North Dakota Population: 22,457,336 (2013 est.) Median age: 22.7 years old (2013 est.) Capital: Damascus (2.5 million) Ethnic Groups: Arab 90.3%, Kurds, Armenians, and other 9.7% Religion: Sunni Muslim 74%, other Muslim (includes Alawite, Druze) 16% Christian (various denominations) 10% GDP: $107.6 billion (2011 est.- most current, as of 5/13) GDP per capita: $5,100 (2011 est.- most current, as of 5/13) Unemployment: 18% (2012 est. - most current, as of 5/13)

Timeline: 1517-1918 - Part of the Ottoman Empire.

1920 - The League of Nations puts Syria under French control.

April 17, 1946 - Independence is declared after French troops leave the country.

1949-1958 - A series of coups leads to instability in the country.

February 1, 1958 - Syria and Egypt merge, creating the United Arab Republic.

September 28, 1961 - Syria secedes from the United Arab Republic.

1967 - Syria loses the Golan Heights to Israel during the Six Day War.

November 13, 1970 - Minister of Defense Hafez al-Assad stages a bloodless coup.

1976-2005 - Approximately 17,000 Syrian troops are stationed in neighboring Lebanon.

1979-present - Syria is placed on the U.S. State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism.

June 10, 2000 - Hafez al Assad dies.

July 10, 2000 - Bashar al-Assad is elected president by referendum, winning 97% of the vote. He is re-elected in 2007.

March 2011 - Violence flares in Daraa after a group of teens and children are arrested for writing political graffiti. Dozens of people are killed when security forces crack down on demonstrations.

Syria...

The article below from The Guardian newspaper in England is a deeply disturbing reflection on the war in Syria. It details the INABILITY of world bodies to solve the Syrian crisis. What I find most disturbing is the probability the Syrian civil war will become a regional war. Already it has spilled over into Lebanon and is flooding Jordan with waring factions of divided Muslims. Millions more people could become refugees and hundreds of thousands more will die if the war escalates. Many followers of Jesus are responding to the crisis, but many more of will need to give, go and pray. All Nations is involved and will send more workers over the next few months...I will be visiting the camps September of this year. 

Floyd McClung

 

The Guardian

By Martin Chulov

 

Half of Syrian population 'will need aid by end of year'

UN high commissioner for refugees says crisis may be worst humanitarian disaster it has dealt with

 

The UN high commissioner for refugees, António Guterres, said there had been 'not been an inch of progress towards a political solution' on Syria. Photograph: Junior Kannah/AFP/Getty Images

Martin Chulov

 

More than half the population of Syria is likely to be in need of aid by the end of the year, the UN high commissioner for refugees has warned, while labelling the ever-worsening crisis as the most serious the global body has dealt with.

 

António Guterres, who has led the UNHCR through the worst of the refugee crises in Afghanistan and Iraq, said the Syrian civil war was more brutal and destructive than both and was already the worst humanitarian disaster since the end of the cold war.

 

His assessment came as the UN released new data on the numbers of refugees, which revealed that 6.8 million Syrians need aid. That figure is likely to reach at least 10 million, more than half the pre-war population of the country.

 

Another UN body, Unicef, says half of those in need are children.

 

"I don't remember any other crisis where we are having 8,000 per day [fleeing across borders], every day since February," Guterres said in an interview with the Guardian. "There will very likely be 3.5 million by the end of the year. We will have half the population of Syria in dire need of assistance and this is incomprehensible."

 

With the civil war now into its third year and increasingly taking the shape of a proxy regional war fought across a sectarian faultline, aid groups are making ever more strident predictions of a catastrophic funding shortfall.

 

Guterres goes further, warning that the modern boundaries of the Middle East and the post-Ottoman agreements that underpin them may unravel if the crisis is not brought to an end.

 

"The political geography of the modern Middle East emerged from the Sykes-Picot agreement with the exception of the never-resolved Israeli-Palestinian situation," he said of the Anglo-French deal at the end of the first world war that eventually formed the nation states of Syria and Lebanon. "The conflict in Syria might for the first time put that political geography into question."

 

The US secretary of state, John Kerry, and Syrian leader, Bashar al-Assad, this week both warned of a partition of the country that would inevitably cause grave ramifications in neighbouring Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan and beyond. Kerry appeared to advance the US position on Syria by suggesting an "enclave break-up" could only be prevented by getting "everybody on the same page with respect to what post-Assad Syria will look like".

 

Assad, meanwhile, reiterated his earlier warning that no country in the region would be safe if the Syrian war, in which a majority Sunni opposition is fighting a minority Alawite regime aligned to Shia Islam, led to the collapse of the embattled state's borders.

 

UNHCR figures show that close to 1.3 million Syrians have fled the country in the past two years. The figure is markedly lower than the numbers that have left Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade, but is increasing at a faster rate than at any point in either country.

 

In addition, there are thought to be at least 3 million internally displaced Syrian refugees, many of whom have limited means to provide for themselves or their families. Communities in Syria's war-ravaged north, west and south are largely without electricity and low on food and running water.

 

Refugee camps in northern Jordan, southern Turkey and Lebanon's Bekaa valley are overwhelmed with daily arrivals of refugees who have often made precarious journeys to escape nearby battlefields.

 

"This is the most brutal [conflict], even with very brutal conflicts elsewhere," said Guterres. "If one looks at the impact on the population, or the percentage of the total population in need, I have no doubt that since the end of the cold war it is the worst. And it will become even worse still if there is no solution.

 

"My belief is that if we take all of these elements, then this is the most dramatic humanitarian crisis that we have ever faced. Then if we look at the geopolitical implications, I have no doubt that this is the most serious that we have ever dealt with."

 

Lebanon and Iraq are increasingly unable to deal with the Syrian spillover, which is disturbing already fraught sectarian power bases and straining meagre resources during an economic downturn brought on by the crisis.

 

"There is a real threat to Lebanon and Iraq," said Guterres. "Jordan is under serious economic stress. We have the Palestinian/Israeli question and the fact that the Syrian army has withdrawn from the Golan Heights. In the context of the Sunni-Shia divide, all the key actors are involved. Even compared to Afghanistan, the geopolitical implications and the threat to global stability are profound. It's the most dangerous of all crises."

 

In an address to the United Nations security council on Thursday, Guterres said there had "not been an inch of progress towards a political solution".

 

Expanding on that to the Guardian, he said: "It is of enormous frustration that we have come to such a situation in global governance that nobody can address it."

 

Diplomacy on Syria has failed to bridge a yawning divide in views on what has fuelled the crisis and how best to deal with it. Russia and China, two permanent members of the security council, have blocked moves towards more robust support of the opposition in Syria. The US and Europe have attempted to impose ever tougher sanctions on the Assad regime, but have balked at arming the opposition because of concerns about the influence of al-Qaida groups.

 

"I lived in a bipolar world," said Guterres. "Until the war in Iraq, I witnessed a unipolar world with one single superpower. Now we are in a clearly established multi-polar world. New actors have emerged – the Brics: China, Russia, Brazil, India. There is no longer a clear set of power relations. There is no way to bring about consensus among global players, or to bring about common action. There is no capacity to produce any solution."

 

UN appeals for aid to Syria remain desperately under-funded with some agencies, including Unicef, reporting a shortfall of more than 70%. The crisis was eased somewhat on Thursday when Kuwait transferred $300m (£196m) to the UN for Syrian relief. "[It] will be distributed across all of our institutions," said Guterres. Kuwait is the only Gulf country that has honoured its promise through the multilateral aid organisations.

 

"We can now put some money up front in Syria, but we are all in big trouble. Most of the western countries have huge budget difficulties. Moving towards 3 million refugees, there is no way that this can be dealt with.

 

"The system is at breaking point. There is limited capacity to take many more. Where are the people going to flee? Into the sea?"

 

Syrian refugees

1.35m: the number of refugees fleeing Syria who have sought protection in neighbouring countries, according to the UNHCR

 

48%: the percentage – at least – of the refugee population who are under 18. Some 77% are women and children

 

$162.4m: the amount pledged by 4 April to Syria's Regional Response Plan by international donors – just 33% of UNHCR's requirements

 

10%: the increase in Lebanon's population due to refugee movements. Jordan's is up 6%

 

Friday 19 April 2013 13.43 BST