Refugees in Lebanon Face More Abuse

August 18, 2016

Syrian refugee children.
Innocent Syrian refugees have suffered attacks, police raids, evictions and discrimination.

Fear of terrorist elements among Syrian refugees, prevalent in Europe and North America, is also growing in Lebanon - and subjecting already traumatized, innocent people to more abuse.

A recent suicide bombing of a predominantly Christian town in northern Lebanon has sparked more hostility toward Syrian refugees, the online World Politics Journal noted this month. Among Middle Eastern countries where refugees fleeing atrocities of war are increasingly unwelcome, Lebanon has the highest percentage of Syrian refugees relative to its estimated population of 5.8 million people - at least 25 percent, counting hundreds of thousands of unregistered Syrian refugees in addition to the 1.1 million registered ones.

Lebanese officials believe the band of suicide bombers that killed five people and wounded scores of others in al-Qaa, Lebanon on June 27 were recent arrivals from Syria, not existing refugees. Innocent Syrian refugees have since suffered an upsurge in attacks, police raids on camps, evictions and discrimination, the journal reported.

Soon after the bombings, authorities rounded up hundreds of Syrian refugees, with 400 reportedly still in custody. While Lebanese authorities asserted that the total was tiny relative to the number of Syrian refugees in the country, Syrian refugees say they have been beaten on the street in the name of "national security" and that many towns have imposed curfews on them. None of the arrests has unearthed any jihadist ties, and most refugees were detained because, unable to pay the $200 renewal fee, they had expired residency papers.

Officials have emptied entire camps of Syrian refugees, and photos of local police in one coastal town forcing the immigrants to line up against a wall with their hands behind their backs last month made a splash in social media, the journal reported.

Moreover, the harassment and beatings are considered the new normal - everyday Lebanese tacitly condone such abuse, rights advocates told the journal.

"There is a rising trend of not just harassing refugees out of revenge, but terrorizing an entire population," one rights advocate told the journal.

The vast majority of refugees are innocent people who have enough troubles without facing such abuse. One Syrian refugee who fled Raqqa, Syria with his family was denied entry into Lebanon when officials speculated that he was dodging military service, and he was detained for two weeks while his wife and two young children had to continue on, according to a ministry leader based in Lebanon.

Syrian refugee children living in squalid condition.
Refugee families from Syria take refuge in dilapidated buildings.

After reuniting with his family in Lebanon, Ali (full name withheld for security purposes) learned that he had been given false residency papers, and he was sentenced to two months in prison with a high likelihood of deportation.

"Ali was treated badly in prison, and the family ran into debt trying to get him released early," the ministry leader said. "Ali's wife had a miscarriage and struggled with depression, and we stepped in."

The ministry quickly took his wife to see a doctor and assisted them with rent payment, food packages, diapers and blankets.

"Please continue to lift this family up as they continue to struggle financially and emotionally," he said.

The refugees express thanks for prayer, and the ministry workers themselves ask for prayer for their daily encounters with refugees. One emotionally fatigued worker (name withheld for security reasons) said he recently enjoyed a fresh encounter with the Lord, awaking at 3 a.m. with an overwhelming sense of Christ's presence.

"His faith was strengthened and renewed," the director said. "He is faithful in sharing Christ with his family and neighbors, and we ask for continued prayers for him. He and his wife have also recently had a baby girl. Let's remember to pray for his family."

Another ministry worker, though illiterate, has started five prayer groups for women - she uses audio media to share the gospel. God has used her in remarkable ways, the director said.

"She doesn't cease to share the love of Christ with those that she encounters, and we know the only explanation for how she can do all this is the Holy Spirit," he said.

An indigenous missionary couple also continues to touch many lives through their ministry in spite of the overwhelming needs of the continuing waves of refugees, he said. The husband has recently committed to full-time ministry.

"I would ask that you pray for this couple and their family, that the Lord would bless them and give them strength and courage so they don't become weary," the director said.

A Muslim who recently put his faith in Christ under the ministry's influence recently decided to return to the community where he grew up in south Lebanon, a hazardous, militant area even apart from the dangers of sharing Christ with Muslims.

"He is a fisherman with a heart for God and an eagerness to minister to his people, no matter how dangerous it may be," the ministry leader said. "He presently has eight people meeting daily in his home for prayer. There is currently no funding for him and his ministry there, but he continues with what he feels God wants him to do. The cost is so high for him, but he persists and cares so deeply for his neighbors, family, and friends."

Two ministry workers recently said they received a divine call to stop waiting for refugees to come to them, but rather to go to Syria to proclaim Christ. Both are illiterate and use audio media to share the gospel with others.

"When asked why they are going when it is so dangerous, they responded that they just can't wait for others," the director said. "The love of Christ burns inside them, and they are ministering to many people that have never heard about Jesus. They know people need Jesus, and they don't let anything stop them from sharing the good news."

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