Behind Desperate Pleas in Syria, Broken Families
June 8, 2017
Family is everything for Syrians, and refugees in Turkey who have fled Syria's war atrocities are not eager to tell how they have lost their children.
They have lost them after losing everything else: home, health, business, vehicles, friends and other relatives, clothes. The long, fine-knit robe a Syrian woman wore as she fled Syria's six-year old civil war might be the sole reminder of the middle-class life she left behind — surrounded by kin and clan, along with the children she and those around her regarded as gifts from God.
Moreover, those squatting in tents at unofficial camps in southern Turkey have lost their homeland — one of the longest continuously inhabited countries in the world, containing some of the world's most ancient cities.
Surrounded by an increasingly hostile Turkish society, the Arabic-speaking refugees struggle to learn Turkish and to find work. A grandmother named Amena* arrived at one of Turkey's makeshift camps with her daughter-in-law and three grandchildren after her son was sent to fight Islamic State militants. After months of receiving aid from a ministry based in Turkey, she had enough trust in the group director to tell him how refugees are losing their children.
"These refugee mothers are so desperate that they leave their children to find work, hoping to earn enough to rent a place to live," Amena said through a translator. "But the children then get lost and used wrongly."
Untended, the children wander away from their tents, their fates unknown for months — or ever. They might be kidnapped, abused, sold or lost. Others are lost when their parents feel forced to sell them off. Syrian parents, usually mothers deprived of their husbands and older (fighting age) sons, fiercely guard their daughters' virtue, if only for family honor. But in the wrenching grip of hunger or illness, many see no option but to get money by handing their daughters over to nightclub owners.
Untended, the children wander away from their tents, their fates unknown for months — or ever. They might be kidnapped, abused, sold or lost.
"These girls, or newly wedded 'brides,' are then used as slaves — their families don't see them again," the ministry director said. "The refugees are embarrassed about it and don't even admit it's happening to their neighbors, but they ask us to pray for another way to safely earn their money."
Typically a nightclub owner pays $100 after the girls have worked one month.
"But then nothing else comes, and no word about where the girls are being kept is given them," he sighed. "We're seeking God's wisdom on how to help them and do appreciate your prayers."
Such needs persist even as the indigenous ministry regularly provides food, water, and other items to refugees in nine camps spread across four cities — about 10,000 people. The mothers in these camps weep as they plead for baby food, vitamins and clean water, which the ministry teams provide along with infant formula, disposable diapers and milk. The elderly receive medicines, clean water and food tailored to their needs.
For people who on any given day may not have enough water to wash their hands, such aid goes a long way toward the refugees opening their tents and hearts to ministry teams. At the same time, the ministry is planning to provide sewing machines and fabric to older girls and young women so they can make and sell clothing — instead of themselves.
Such assistance softens hearts, and the ministry director thanked Christian Aid Mission donors, as team members are seeing God work miracles in the refugees' hearts.
"We will be forever thankful for your generosity in allowing us to answer these hurting people," he said. "It's a joy to us to hear them saying, 'Christians are so good, so generous with all the help. It's Christians that care enough to provide our needs when there's no hope.'"
Coming from a country long segmented by class distinctions, both Syria's poor and its expanding middle class find themselves marooned on the same island of want. Refugees who were once well-off clamor for aid alongside the poor — though not so poor in their home country that they could not obtain the milk, water and other essentials they now lack.
"Now they are on top of one another coming to our truck to receive a package of food to fill their present needs, and you've been the source of providing these needs," the director said of Christian Aid Mission and its donors. His ministry also supplies notebooks, books, pencils and other items needed for schooling for refugee children.
His gratitude for Christian Aid Mission donors overflowed: "By your prayers and helpful support, you are definitely a part of the firm foundation on which the church in Turkey is being built. You are blessing some 10,000 people by helping us to supply their needs, and we are very thankful to be able to deliver what you're giving to us. Our prayers are with you, as you have been so instrumental in allowing many hungry stomachs to feel full again."
To help indigenous missionaries to meet needs, you may contribute online using the form below, or call (434) 977-5650. If you prefer to mail your gift, please mail to Christian Aid Mission, P.O. Box 9037, Charlottesville, VA 22906. Please use Gift Code: 416MPO. Thank you!
*Name changed for security reasons