Alliance Justice and Compassion resources and promotes the local and global ministries of The Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada that seek to bring wholeness and well-being to people made vulnerable by circumstances of poverty, disaster, and injustice. May the stories and thoughts inspire the reader to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Syrian Refugee Relief

"I lay on the street pretending I was dead for five hours because the snipers would shoot anything that moved.." 
This is just one example of the troubling stories shared by Syrian refugees as they recount their experiences of the civil war before fleeing to safety in neighbouring countries.
The living conditions of the refugees are terribly disheartening. Whether an extended family of 12 living in a one-room rented space, multiple families sharing one small apartment or young widows and their children in a tent within a refugee camp, life is difficult and seems hopeless. 
They have left jobs, homes, friends and family— with whatever they could carry— and now rely on the kindness and generosity of others. Many have experienced this care through Alliance churches in Lebanon, Jordan and within Syria.
The C&MA in Canada is supporting these relief ministries of the Alliance churches in Beirut, Damascus and Mafraq. In December, Joanne Beach travelled to the region with a team led by Arie Verduijn, President of Alliance World Fellowship. They visited these sister churches and many of the displaced Syrian families to whom they are ministering.
Syrian Family
The most striking component of the churches’ relief ministries is the personal interest that is demonstrated. It is not just about handing out mattresses, blankets, heaters or food; it is about relational connection.
Once the distribution teams have delivered desperately needed items, visitation teams do regular follow-up visits to inquire about further needs, pray with people and simply spend time visiting. In the region it has been referred to as the "Alliance Approach."  Pastor Edward Awabdeh from Damascus summarized it in these words: "We let people know how precious they are."
Greeting Syrians
The Syrian conflict has created a humanitarian crisis. The UN Refugee Agency reports that over 9 million Syrians have fled their homes due to the escalating violence.

"We let people know how precious they are." 
Joanne reports that their team was privileged to visit the 
Syrian Refugee Camp
Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan. With a population of approximately 130,000, it is one of the largest in the world. After a 30-minute briefing from the Colonel who oversees the camp, they were driven through the camp which enabled them to get a sense of what life is like within.

Bridal Shop
The most profound moment for them was driving up the main market street and passing by a bridal shop kiosk. In this new normal, people marry, have children and build new relationships; life goes on for the displaced.
Within these camps, people receive simple shelter, food, water and a degree of healthcare. Children attend school. Yet for millions of refugees who are not in official camps, this is not guaranteed. It is these people that the churches focus on.
"Now one of the needs is for discipleship, as many people are beginning to follow Jesus." 
Small schoolroom for Syrian refugee children
The church in Mafraq has started a small school and is considering opening a larger one so that the hundreds of kids whom they are connecting with will have the opportunity to continue their education.
As the churches are reaching out with compassion to those in this crisis, they are finding that many are spiritually seeking as well. In their despair, they are finding hope in Jesus. Pastor Nour from Mafraq stated, “Now one of the needs is for discipleship, as many people are beginning to follow Jesus.”

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