Lebanon (MNN) — Lebanon is at a crossroads. While it unavoidably sits in Syria's shadow, it has been at relative peace for nearly four years.
Because it is so near to Syria, it is close to the polarizing issues behind that country's civil war. In northern Lebanon, rebels battling President Bashar al-Assad's regime are getting support, help, and weaponry.
Since the fighting began, notes Vice-President of Operations for Kids Alive International, Matt Parker: "A huge number of refugees [are] coming across the border from Syria into Lebanon…about 100,000 who have huge needs. Pray for that situation."
Meanwhile, support for Assad's regime also seemed to be gaining traction in Lebanon, resulting in conflict pulling the country two ways. The October 19 assassination of police intelligence chief General Wissam al-Hassan, an opponent of the Assad regime, raised fears about Lebanon being dragged into a proxy war.
Tensions over Hassan's murder also plunged Lebanon into political crisis
that eventually led to violent protests and the demand for the
resignation of certain government leaders. At that point, U.S.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton weighed in with a warning that a
power vacuum in Lebanon's government could leave it open to exploitation
Parker sums it up this way: "At the moment, Lebanon is really on a knife's edge." He goes on to say, "Inevitably, people are very fearful about the situation, and really, our goal is to provide a caring, supportive, secure environment for these kids–to talk through with kids the concerns and fears that they have."
Syria and the rebels have agreed to a cease-fire proposed for the four-day Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday, which starts today. It would be a relief, however temporary.
Regionally, the number of refugees has climbed to more than 358,000. The United Nations says governments in states bordering Syria estimate there are tens of thousands more Syrians who have not yet registered. Those who are "falling through the cracks" are the ones Kids Alive is helping. Parker explains, "We're working with our partners at the moment to provide food and clothing to a number of refugee families that have come across the border. We have a number of kids in our school program and our residential program that are refugees from Syria. So, we're doing what we can to help, but it's a desperate situation."
This help is given in addition to the ministry's normal work. "We have just over 30 kids that are in our residential program. Then we have a school program working with 80 children, and then another project down in south Lebanon, near the town of Sidon, with another 25 children from a very poor community."
So far, the kids have been safe. However, the constant tension and stress create a trouble psyche for kids growing up in the situation, many of whom have already survived some trauma. Parker says, "Psalm 46 talks about God being 'our refuge, and our strength, and our very present help in times of trouble.' That's a message that we're really trying to convey to our children."
Under ordinary circumstances, Kids Alive provides an education, nutritious meals, medical care, and the love of Christ to the kids they help in Lebanon through their school programs, Care Centers, and Homes. This is no ordinary time, though. Stepping up to meet the additional needs means they need your help. First, says Parker, "Let's pray through the situation, through the fear that people have, that Christ would be made known and people would turn to Him at this time and come to know Him."
Then, they need funds. There's no end in sight for the conflict, and Syria disregarded an earlier cease-fire plan backed by the UN. That means for now, Lebanon will have to figure out how to handle the developing humanitarian crisis on its own. Parker says, "There's no real long-term plan to help and support these families."
Regardless of which direction Lebanon turns, it won't be without cost. The most vulnerable population gets squeezed the hardest, literally robbed of innocence and childhood. "Pray for our program with marginalized kids, with vulnerable children, that we would be successful in meeting these kids' needs–physical needs, educational needs–but also be successful in sharing with them the love that Christ has for them."
Check our Featured Links Section to see what Kids Alive does in Lebanon and for ways you can help.