Addressing domestic abuse among Syrian refugees with the Gospel

By April 27, 2020
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Lebanon (MNN) — In Lebanon, 1.6 million Syrian refugees are taking the hardest hits during the COVID-19 lockdown. Now that many refugees are out of work, emotions are rising. Many Syrian refugee families live in overcrowded, damp, and even moldy apartments. With close quarters and nowhere to go, there’s no escape for abuse victims.

Pierre Houssney, executive director of Horizons International says, “There are more stressors on the people. There are economic pressures, there’s unemployment, and that just makes…a lot more increased opportunities for conflict — whether that be marital conflict or other kinds of domestic abuse.”

(Photo courtesy of Horizons International)

Horizons International serves Muslims in Lebanon through nine ministry centers. They build relationships with Muslims and refugees, share Gospel hope, and disciple new believers from a Muslim background.

Unfortunately, Houssney says, “Many of them are in difficult homes. Many of them will experience domestic abuse.”

Houssney recently spoke with someone from the Lebanon Ministry for Public Health who also works on the government’s Mental Health Initiative. “He was saying that the calls into the hotlines that they run have nearly doubled in terms of reports for domestic abuse, and then also for reports of people who are thinking about suicide.”

In light of the pandemic, Horizons International is talking with their staff about how to prevent emotional isolation with the refugees they serve. They are checking in on refugee families and providing emergency aid along with reminders of Jesus’s love.

To set a positive example for families, the ministry has a curriculum that teaches God-honoring family principles. Horizons International’s family curriculum “confronts the cultural idea of what a family should be and it replaces it with the biblical method of raising children [and] marriage. It talks about communication, it talks about loving one another, [and] it talks about mutual respect according to the biblical model. So we’ve seen a lot of results in that.”

(Photo courtesy of Horizons International via Facebook)

Also, Houssney says, “Many of our staff have expressed the heart to be able to reach out beyond our direct circle of influence. We’re starting to learn how to use media in order to do that by producing videos that will be addressing prevention measures or any kind of encouragement that we can be giving to people at this time.”

Horizons International needs your help to continue ministry to Muslims and Syrian refugees in Lebanon. To give to Horizons International, click here!

Houssney says they also want to link arms with believers around the world in prayer.

“For me and my family, every time we eat a meal, we pray for those who don’t have meals at this time. Many of the refugees here in Lebanon specifically, they’ve run out of food and they don’t have opportunities to work. They can’t even leave the home in order to work even if there were work opportunities. So just be praying for those that are in need.

“And always be praying with a listening ear — not only telling God what you want Him to do for you but also asking God, ‘How do you want me to respond, God, within my own area of influence?’”

Finally, Houssney encourages Christians to check on families in our community circles and model Christ’s love. You never know who could be silently suffering behind the doors of their own homes.

“Be bold in asking difficult questions because most people who are in abusive situations have a lot of shame about that and they don’t share openly with that. Most of the time, they need somebody to care enough to ask the tough questions and not to just accept the easy answers.”




Header photo courtesy of Jason Wong via Unsplash.

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