Gypsy children in Lebanon (Photo courtesy of Ma'an News Agency)
Lebanon (MNN) ― With violence in Syria escalating, thousands of refugees are pouring over the borders of their neighbor, Lebanon--a country itself that seems to be a pot of conflict waiting to boil.
“As we have seen from media stories, for many years south Lebanon has been an unsettled, volatile region,” says Matt Parker with Kids Alive International. “The tensions between different people groups are constantly simmering. There’s always the risk that these will become violent.”
Parker goes on to say, “Obviously, on the news recently, we see all about the issues in Syria. Pray that that will not spill over into Lebanon.”
Despite these risky times, Kids Alive is going forward with the love of Christ, specifically reaching out to the gypsy communities in south Lebanon.
There are around 8,000 gypsies in Lebanon, many living in terrible conditions with no running water or electricity and little access to health care or education.
According to a study last year by Insan and Swiss NGO Terre des Hommes, around 68% of gypsy children in Lebanon have never even been to school.
Parker says, “In south Lebanon, children as young as three years of age are being forced into work. That’s shocking.”
Kids Alive recently opened a care center in South Lebanon for the gypsy people. Their biggest program is a literacy program that teaches up to 30 students.
Many of the kids in the literacy program have never had any type of structure, so being in an educational setting is an adjustment. Additonally, they’ve had to learn basics about hygiene and social skills as these haven’t been part of their background.
“These kids come from backgrounds where fighting, hating, revenge are just a part of everyday life. Learning to love and forgive have really been new concepts for them,” comments Parker.
“Most importantly of all, these kids and their families are learning about God’s love for them…it’s often these communities with such poverty and such need where people are open to the Gospel message,” says Parker. “Through the care that we provide, and through our Bible teaching with the kids, and conversations with the parents and their families, people can see that they have a God [who] loves them.”
Please be praying for peace in Lebanon. Pray also for Kids Alive’s ministry in Christ as they have two children’s homes and a school in addition to their care center in south Lebanon.