Since Syria fell into civil war, more than 900,000 Syrians have fled their homeland and two million more are displaced inside Syria. Christians have been hit especially hard. Cities like Homs, once the heart of the Christian community, are now all but empty of the faithful. Moreover, Christian refugees in neighboring Lebanon are reluctant to reach out for aid from the United Nations and the Red Crescent, out of fear for their safety.
Recently, the New York Times took readers into the heart of the crisis:
Quietly but inexorably, a human tide has crept into Lebanon, Syria’s smallest and most vulnerable neighbor.
As Syrians fleeing civil war pour over the border, the village priest here, Elian Nasrallah, trudges through muddy fields to deliver blankets. His family runs a medical clinic for refugees. When Christian villagers fret about the flood of Sunni Muslims, he replies that welcoming them is “the real Christianity.”
But the priest and his parishioners cannot keep up. The United Nations counts more than 305,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon, but local officials and aid workers say the actual number is about 400,000, saturating this country of four million.
The Lebanese government — by design — has largely left them to fend for themselves. Deeply divided over Syria, haunted by memories of an explosive refugee crisis a generation ago, it has mostly ignored the problem, dumping it on overwhelmed communities like Qaa.
So far, Lebanon’s delicate balance has persevered, but there is a growing sense of emergency.
Read further for more details. The picture it paints is harrowing.
We at CNEWA are working with our partners in the Eastern Catholic churches to ensure Syria’s Christians do not fall through the cracks.
This is how:
Coordinating Church Aid
Churches in Syria and Lebanon are already ministering to the needs of displaced Christians. But the Christian community is fractured and does not have a history of working together. The only institution known and trusted by all sides is CNEWA. Perhaps our greatest contribution to the relief effort has been to coordinate the initiatives with our church partners. Working together works.
Feeding Displaced Families
Inside Syria, we are helping our partner churches to feed 3,000 of the most vulnerable Christian families who are in their care. Some of these families live in especially violent areas and are too frightened to leave home; others are simply too poor to afford the cost of food. The families are receiving emergency food packages with enough to feed five people for a month.
Medicine for Refugees
With our help, the Good Shepherd Sisters in Lebanon are providing 800 Iraqi refugees with medicine for chronic health problems. They include families like Walid H., his wife and three children, all of whom have become asthmatic since moving into a moldy, one-room slum apartment. This family is receiving inhalers and other necessary medications, thanks to the sisters and CNEWA.
Helping Families Adjust
No one knows how long the refugees will be in Lebanon, but they are not going home any time soon. Working with Armenian Catholic and Armenian Orthodox church leaders, we are helping children from 450 families to adjust to Lebanon’s education system — a real challenge, as many schools only teach in French. We are also providing women with vocational training so they can find jobs.
Sheltering the Homeless
Lebanon has many parishes, congregations of religious and other Christian institutions. Right now, we are helping to survey church-owned real estate in order to identify vacancies where refugee families can live in stability and dignity.
You can be a part of our effort to bring help and hope to the suffering people of Syria.