Christian Aid Helping Syrian Refugees in North Lebanon
November 8, 2011
Indigenous missionaries here in northern Lebanon are asking for emergency help to feed and care for hundreds of Syrian refugees who have fled the terror and violence across the border in Syria. About 6000 refugees have streamed out of Syria so far in what amounts to a “secret exodus” – and the Christian community here is being pressed to give shelter and emergency aid.
Indigenous Christian leaders are asking Christian Aid Mission in Charlottesville, Virginia for help to feed, house and provide emergency relief – especially to the Christians among the refugees. “Almost daily we are getting requests for help,” says a Christian Aid staff member.
In order to collect more help, Christian Aid has set up a special emergency fund, Gift Code 400REF. Contributions to the special fund are being sent 100% to the Middle East to provide Arabic Bibles, food packages, mattresses, warm clothing and shoes. Credit card contributions are accepted by calling 800-977-5650 or by going online.
Feeding and caring for a refugee family costs about $130 a week in temporary shelters. Most of the refugees appear to be women and children.
“American Christians have seen the news about Syria but they have not been informed about these needs and ministry opportunities among the refugees,” commented the Christian Aid staffer. “Christians need to be helping those who are on the frontlines of this opportunity; American believers and churches need to provide help.”
In order to stem the flow, Syria is planting land mines to cripple civilians who are trying to escape. There have been raids across the border from Syria to kidnap some of those who have made their way to freedom. Arrests are being made daily among the undocumented refugees but neither government is publicly acknowledging the problem.
Local believers are providing both for the spiritual and physical needs of the refugees, with small group Bible studies, cassette tapes and Arabic language Bibles. Native missionaries say they first noticed the increasing numbers of refugees in June, 2011. There are about 1600 Syrian families estimated to be living in North Lebanon now.
“We are not prepared to help these people,” says a local missionary leader, “but we cannot keep our doors closed when we see our brothers and sisters in need – whether they are from Christian or Muslim background.”
Many of the refugees are parts of families separated by the fighting and have exhausted the funds they brought with them. The husbands and fathers find it almost impossible to obtain paying jobs in the area. Now, with winter coming, there is a need for even more aid to help cope with the cold.
Christians are not being targeted for persecution in Lebanon and are not of the refugees were involved in political demonstrations or anti-government activities. However, the refugees are afraid that anti-Christian extremists will use the civil unrest to harass and kill them as is happening in Iraq and Egypt. Only two of the refugee families who were interviewed actually had the fathers of their family killed – and there appeared to be no definite proof that these apparently random killings were related to their faith. However, these deaths created panic.
“God uses times of crisis to soften hearts to the gospel,” add the Christian Aid staff spokesman. “This may be a time of harvest among Muslim and Christian refugees. God is sovereign. He cares for Muslims. Counties in the Middle East are going through great upheaval. Not many Muslims are turning to Christ. Maybe the long turmoil in Syria is God’s way of beginning to bring this about.
“On the other hand, for the believers who are fleeing Syria, they have left everything behind. At best, most will only be able to find menial labor. There is a role here for us, one that is commanded by God – to take care of our brothers and sisters in need.”
Christian Aid has been helping victims of the ongoing violence in the Middle East since 1953 when the mission was formed by Bob Finley, author of the classic book on indigenous outreach, Reformation in Foreign Missions.