It is most difficult for us in the West to fathom how children displaced by war can survive. There are children who live in tents and face the constant grip of cold weather, insufficient water and food, poor sanitation and dirty clothes. But most of all, they have lost their mother or father — or both. Some of their parents have been killed — right in front of them — while others have been taken away or disappeared in the night.
In the Middle East there are two basic categories of displaced children: Those seeking refuge in their own country and those who have fled to another land. Although things might be a little better for those who remain in their own homeland — familiar environments, language and perhaps extended family — it is by no means an environment for innocent children.
Imagine a child, alone in a foreign land, where everyone is a complete stranger. Imagine that that child has had to flee several times from several areas of conflict or even several countries.
Such is the plight of Armenian children who fled Iraq for refuge in Syria, and now have found a safe haven in Lebanon. How long will this refuge hold out? Where to next? Armenia? When will the horror end? No one knows the answer. And if one looks at history as a guide, the Armenians have had a very sad history, having been routed and chased from their ancient homeland and now in their places of refuge.
We have an expression, “Home is where the heart is.” CNEWA, in partnership with local the churches, reaches out to these innocent children and tries to create some semblance of a safe and secure environment, meeting the basic needs of food, shelter and clothing, and going far beyond.
During a recent visit to a large settlement of Armenian Syrian refugees in Beirut, I was very touched to join groups of children tutored by very committed teachers, refugees themselves, as part of a program to keep their minds active in learning and their hearts engaged in an environment of love. And CNEWA, thanks to our benefactors, is there, bringing alive this loving program, which instills both hope and cultural pride.
The smiles on the faces of the children demonstrate how education is one of the best remedies and most basic needs for displaced children. You should feel most blessed in knowing your generous contributions to CNEWA can make a huge difference in the lives of these little victims of war and oppression.
On their behalf and in their name, I thank all of you for confronting the horror of being strangers in a foreign land and making these little ones feel loved and part of our family.