Extremist recruiters target refugee kids out of school

By July 26, 2016

Lebanon (MNN) — Like stamping out sparks before you’re dealing with a forest fire, it’s easier to get ahead of a problem before it starts.

While world leaders figure out how to stifle radical Islamic terrorists, one root of the problem lies in radical recruitment tactics that target uneducated kids in refugee camps.

Dale Dieleman with Tent Schools International explains, “The longer that kids are in camps, the more likely, according to a lot of research, there is for them to be recruited by militant groups. But the evidence has also shown that giving children an opportunity to have some hope by having a place to go, an education, and also some skill training significantly reduces these chances of children being radicalized. And we’re talking about kids under the age of 15.”

(Photo courtesy Tent Schools International)

(Photo courtesy of Tent Schools International)

Some of the education challenges for refugee kids come from restricted access to schools in their host countries due to changing refugee policies. They’ve been cut off from the public schools and have nowhere else to go.

“So, for many kids, the only opportunity they will have to continue their education, which was disrupted in their home countries, is to have a school set up within the camps. And that’s our major focus. We want to help children continue their education, but also in so doing, try to mitigate against or significantly reduce the opportunities for kids to be recruited into these terrorist groups.”

Tent Schools International has several partner organizations with tent schools set up in refugee camps. Each tent school serves around 100 families with at least that many children. They will sometimes rotate sessions, with younger kids in the morning and older age groups in the afternoon.

“We’re doing a pilot project also with sending laptop computers to help children get on board with bridging this digital divide that exists. [They would] also be learning some basic computer skills, not only for downloading information from the internet, but also to train them so when they have an opportunity to leave the camp, they have some computer literacy skills that can help them land a job or go on with their education.”

Currently, Tent Schools International is fundraising to set up another school for refugee kids in Lebanon’s Bekaa valley. They hope to have everything ready to go by September when the school year starts.

(Photo courtesy of Tent Schools International)

(Photo courtesy of Tent Schools International)

Dieleman says, “We need to help raise the funds to get a school up, a tent school actually, and also to help support some teacher salaries and so on for a year…. We’re looking at a total package of about $32,000.”

With the positive impact of these tent schools, what was fertile ground for radicalization is now fertile ground for God’s Word.

“Our partners are very strong Christians. They hire Christian teachers, and the families in the camps are very aware of that and they don’t mind that these teachers are there. According to our partners, every day at the school they begin the day with prayer, they begin the day with a Bible story, and throughout the day they have opportunities to talk about the message of the Gospel with the children,” Dieleman shares.

“It’s a gradual approach to introduce them to the Gospel, to who Jesus was, and also exposure to Scripture through really caring and compassionate teachers who are really dedicated to this, because they’re only getting about $500 a month as teachers. It’s virtually volunteering. So we want to do our part to help and encourage them as well.”

With all the news headlines that seem to feature another terrorist attack or bombing each month, it can be easy to feel like the problem is too big. What can one person do that would make any kind of difference?

Thankfully, it’s not up to us, but to God who works through us. 1 Corinthians 1:27 says, “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong” (ESV).

(Photo courtesy of Tent Schools International)

(Photo courtesy of Tent Schools International)

Making education possible for refugee kids, while it seems small, can have a reverberating affect of hope, empowerment, and a revival for Jesus Christ among refugee camps.

If you’d like to help Tent Schools International reach their goal of $32,000 for the new school, you can donate here. Or consider hosting a coin drive to raise funds in your church, school, office, or community!

Most importantly, you can support Tent Schools by praying them into the mission field. Pray that God would give the Christian teachers strength, compassion, and wisdom as they provide education and present the Gospel. Pray for more schools to be set up in the refugee camps, so hundreds of kids can improve their lives and open their hearts to the God who loves them.

“The bottom line,” says Dieleman, “is that kids are being exposed to the Christian faith, to the life of Jesus.”

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