Syria (MNN) — One week ago today, more than 4,000 displaced Syrian children braved the journey back into Syria for their national exams for grades 9 through 12.
Assistance from Non-Government Organizations made test preparation possible, but the students’ determination revealed a bigger picture: the Next Generation has big plans for their country. The exams represent hopes and dreams for a future in a rebuilt Syria.
Right now, that’s all it feels like: a pipe dream. Renewed conflict in the northwest part of the country just displaced hundreds of thousands more. At the same time, neighboring countries hosting Syrian refugees are trying to send them back. Amid reports of desertion arrests, military conscription, and general lawlessness, it’s no wonder Syrian families are reluctant to return home.
A personal approach to the Syrian crisis
Eight years into the conflict, the refugee’s story fails to generate much interest or response. Humanitarian aid funds are drying up at a time when some areas are seeing increased need. Peter, a spokesman for the prayer ministry Cry Out Now, says compassion fatigue partly stems from the length of the war and partly from overwhelming numbers. People have lost sight of individuals amid statistics.
For every family that fled the war in Syria, there are young people with dashed hopes. Education short-circuited when it became too dangerous to attend classes. Since many fled in haste, papers went missing. Some countries don’t allow refugees to participate in public schools. Other schools charge tuition, which puts the price of education out of reach for the displaced.
Hope deferred can turn into bitterness. That can also create vulnerability to an extremist ideology. However, on that score, Peter makes a couple of points. First, identify the dreams. “Looking at a new generation of hope rising, we have, you know, maybe 20,000 children have died 2.5 million in Lebanon, and Turkey as refugees. But we wanted to give them a voice as to what their dreams are for the future.”
Then, “It depends on how Syria develops, as you were in the coming days as to whether there still is going to be an ideology of extremism. And you sense that the children will have seen the worst of it, and will want to reject that.”
A prayerful approach to the Syrian crisis
Personalizing a story helps to put a face and name behind this future Syria. It’s a future where there are policemen, teachers, and doctors helping to rebuild a once beautiful country.
Cry Out Now decided to let the kids express their own vision of the future through their artwork. “It’s just a picture that the children have drawn and is ‘what is their dream for the future?’ We’d love different Sunday school groups and other small groups, maybe to take it in one of the months of the summer, and pray through these brief prayer points.” The ministry then put the artwork into a simple 30-day prayer guide and wants other Christians to join them in a chorus of prayer for Syria’s children.
The prayer points come from their dreams for the future, explains Peter. “‘I would like to be a policeman and help in Syria to make it safe.’ Somebody else says, ‘I want to be a doctor, and I want to help children get well’; ‘I want to be a teacher, and I want to teach children in Syria when I go back.’ So this sense of them wanting to take something positive back into Syria, they’ve seen the worst of it, like they really have and many talk about feeling safe.”
The team at Cry Out Now hopes the guide personalizes the Syrian crisis “(because) these will be the dreams of our children as well.”
Even as world leaders struggle toward peace talks and headlines continue to trumpet news on new offensives, there are glimmers of hope in Syria’s story. From students braving uncertain conditions to take the next step in their education, to a positive diaspora effect, Peter says, “Let’s keep believing that God is going to do something significant in Syria. For those that have come to Christ, outside of Syria, (that) when they go back, that there will be the opportunity to take what they’ve learned, to build small groups of Bible-believing people there in Syria.”
Header photo courtesy of Cry Out Now