During my recent visit to the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan, a middle-aged Syrian refugee whispered in a soft voice, “I would have preferred to stay in Syria and fight alongside my compatriots to defend our basic freedom against Assad dictatorship. But I have five children. I had to bring them here to safety. Here in Za’atari, my children are safe. Now, I have to go back to Syria to defend my hometown from Hezbollah and Iranian invasion.”
The numbers are staggering. Since the opening of the Za’atari camp in July 2012, there has been a high influx rate of Syrians fleeing violence. The camp has ballooned to more than 130,000 people. Half of them are children. Jordan hosts over 500,000 Syrian refugees out of 1.6 million Syrian refugees, and the rest have fled mainly to Lebanon and Turkey. The number of internally displaced people in Syria has reached more than four million.
The Syrian crisis has become the worst humanitarian crisis of the 21st century.
Our partner, the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), is present in the Za’atari refugee camp, providing much-needed relief supplies. I have greatly admired the model used by LWF in empowering the refugees to be involved in the distribution of the shipments. The refugees unpack the boxes, sort the supplies by size and number, pack them in individual boxes and make them ready for distribution day. This empowerment of the refugees allows a responsible and orderly distribution program.
I asked one of the Syrian refugees about what he thinks of the future of Syria.
“I would like to go back tomorrow, but the war is not likely to end any time soon.”
Even if it was to end, the possibility of a sectarian bloodbath looms large. The Syrian towns and villages are destroyed. Restoring the economy and rebuilding the infrastructure will take years.
In this regard, the announcement by the Government of Canada on July 3, 2013, allowing sponsorship of 1,100 Syrian refugees through the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program is a commendable one. Through this announcement, Lutheran churches can make a difference to Syrian refugees by sponsoring some of them to come to safety and giving them an opportunity to rebuild their lives. We are once again challenged by a humanitarian disaster, and we are called to offer the same compassion and generosity as we did with the Vietnamese boat people three decades ago.
by Fikre Tsehai, CLWR Program Manager for Refugees
CLWR is accepting financial donations to support refugees in the Za’atari camp. You can donate:
– By making a designated offering donation at any Lutheran congregation in Canada.
– Online at clwr.org/donate. Click on Emergencies, and select “Syrian Refugee Relief” (Go directly there by clicking here.)
– By calling our toll-free number: 1.800.661.2597 or 204.694.5602
-By sending a cheque made payable to CLWR, 600-177 Lombard Avenue, Winnipeg, MB R3B 0W5. Please indicate that you wish to contribute to “Syrian Refugee Relief.”