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Last week the UK parliament voted against military action in Syria; in the USA, congress is getting ready to vote on the same question.
As debate continues over the best course of action for peace and justice in Syria, there are many uncertainties and dilemmas. What we do know for certain is that there are now 2 million Syrian refugees, including more than 1 million children. It’s the worst refugee crisis for over 20 years.
We also know that these numbers are increasing alarmingly. Two years after the start of the conflict there were one million Syrian refugees; this has doubled in just six months.
We’re not just talking about numbers, we’re talking about children like Dirar, who is 3 years old and terrified of fireworks, planes flying overhead and people in uniform. And grandparents like Akram (aged 67) and Chandni (aged 50) whose home in Syria was destroyed, forcing them to flee with what they could carry.
Most of these families had comfortable lives in Syria, with a regular income and a nice home, their children were going to school. Many now find themselves living in makeshift tents or squeezed into overcrowded apartments.
In the face of these stories, I’m encouraged by what local churches in the region are doing. Church members have come to their pastor saying that they need to act, and others are so moved they’ve given up their jobs to work with refugees full time.
In the words of a colleague when she returned from Lebanon: ‘Local churches are visiting refugees, seeking to help meet their needs and loving them. We saw some wonderful examples of church being church.’
Tearfund is working with local churches and partner organisations in Lebanon and Jordan to help meet Syrian refugees’ immediate needs.
Some of our partners are giving out food parcels and other essentials, like soap and washing powder, each month. Others are keeping a roof over refugees’ heads or helping children to deal with what they’ve seen and experienced.
At the moment our partner organisations are all saying the same thing: more and more families are arriving, host communities are struggling to cope and the needs are escalating beyond any agency’s capacity.
How can we respond to this crisis?
As Christians, of course we can pray. We need to pray for leaders and decision-makers, for peace, justice and wisdom. We can pray for creative and constructive ways forward in this complex situation.
And we can act. You can sign a petition asking for peace talks to find a political solution to be the top priority here. You could also consider donating to Tearfund’s Syria Crisis appeal, to help people like Dirar, Chandni and Akram.
One common thread in every story I’ve heard is that people want to go back to Syria. Ultimately, this is our hope too, to help people return home.
* Tearfund has more information about what we’re doing and resources to help you respond at www.tearfund.org/syria.
(c) Matthew Frost is Chief Executive Officer of Tearfund, the leading evangelical relief and development agency, which is also part of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC).Tweet