Syria (MNN) – As the death toll in Syria climbs and more and more people are driven from their homes, countries around the world are struggling to know how to respond.
According to the Syrian Network for Human rights, the civil war has claimed over 200,000 civilian lives since March 2011, the majority of which came at the hands of government forces. Nearly 24,000 of those deaths were children.
The human rights organization also reports that over half of Syria’s 22 million people have been driven from their homes. Approximately 13.5 million people need humanitarian assistance within the country.
“One of the things I think we did not imagine would be the extension of the whole Syrian crisis internally within Syria, and how that is continuing to affect the flow of refugees, but also those who are trapped inside the country,” says Dale Dieleman, vice president of Tent Schools International, an organization dedicated to providing hope and opportunity for displaced children through education.”
The end of the year especially saw an uptick in the conflict’s intensity. The failure of several ceasefire negotiations, and, most recently, government soldiers’ recapture of Aleppo has driven thousands from their homes.
But as refugees seek asylum in neighboring countries like Lebanon and Jordan or Western Europe, they often don’t receive the assistance they need. Many countries are becoming overpopulated and aren’t prepared to provide help for the long term.
“Those countries are becoming overtaxed, quite literally, with, ‘What are we going to do with a population that is almost one fourth to one third of (our) own internal population?’ Dieleman says. “So it seems like harsh measures are being applied to reduce the flow…They don’t want to accept the fact that this is going to be a long-term internal issue for them. They want the refugees to return to their own country as soon as possible.”
Recent tragedies like the Christmas market attack in Germany and the murder of the Russian ambassador to Ankara, Turkey have only strengthened these anti-refugee sentiments, causing many to view refugees as violent terrorists.
“We have to have within ourselves an examination of our own hearts,” Dieleman says. “These are human beings. These are people who are reflections of the image of God. These are people who deserve dignity. They deserve the human rights that the United Nations through various international laws have placed on everyone, including a special place for refugees in terms of specific human rights, and including education for all children.
“These things cannot be ignored. They can’t be put off because of some fear, unfounded fears in most cases that refugees are actually terrorists. We can’t be thinking that. We have to be thinking in terms of the fact that these individuals are our brothers and sisters, and we need to be with them along the way, wherever they are.”
Tent Schools is taking multiple initiatives to curb fear and instill compassion for refugees. It works with Christian leaders in Lebanon and other countries to fund Christ-centered schools for displaced refugees. It also helps create access to technology for teachers and older students for career training and provides training materials for teachers working with children suffering from trauma.
“We have a video that goes inside the classroom, and there are parents, mothers, there are children, and there are teachers who talk on this video, and they keep telling these children, ‘You are somebody…You are not just a refugee, you are someone with a name, you are someone who is in the hand of God.”
You can also pray. Pray for families and children who have been displaced. Pray for calmer peace negotiations. Pray for hope for children and that they would see themselves as the future of their country. Finally, pray for refugees with your children and instill in them a spirit of compassion.