Lebanon (MNN) — After the Syrian government recently used chemical weapons on their own people, the United States led an airstrike on Syria’s alleged chemical weapons facilities late last week. The United Kingdom and France were also part of that coalition.
In this conflict, much of the international attention is fixed on national players — Russia, Iran, Syria, the US, and others. However, there are additional players who are not getting as much of the spotlight but are still deeply affected.
For one, Tom Atema with Heart for Lebanon says the people in Syria’s neighboring country of Lebanon are watching these latest events closely with some worry.
“It is affecting the Lebanese people…. The only way I can describe it is it’s a very tense situation in Lebanon. It is tense because they don’t know what is going to happen next. It is the fear of the unknown.”
There is fear of possible retaliation from Russia, Iran, Hezbollah, or others backing Syria in the conflict. On Saturday, Russia gathered a Security Council to discuss the airstrikes in Syria. The UN rejected Russia’s resolution to condemn “the aggression against Syria by the U.S. and its allies in violation of the UN charter.”
Atema explains, “Depending on what comes out of that, there could be retaliation. I think everybody agrees that there will be some form of retaliation, whether that’s shipping out more US diplomats from Russia or if it is actual bombs or something. Everybody is pretty sure some retaliation will take place. In Lebanon, that’s what the fear is.”
Syrian refugees living in Lebanon are also understandably impacted by these latest clashes and wonder what this means for their future.
“The Syrian refugees in Lebanon that we serve, they have become more anxious and a little bit more in desperate despair, if I can word it that way. The questions they are asking our team are, ‘Does this mean we will never be able to go back home? Is this a judgement from God?… Is the West finally going to engage and end this war? What does this mean for us when we’re living here in Lebanon?’”
As the Heart for Lebanon staff field these questions and reach out with aid, the Gospel becomes an important message of hope.
Atema shares, “We deal a lot with the emotions of the Syrian refugees and the trauma that that is. But we do our trauma counseling based on the Word of God and so reconciliation is a big deal and we have to work on that.”
In the wake of the latest chemical weapons attacks and the responsive airstrike, Atema expects more refugees will be coming into Lebanon from Syria. For many of the Muslim refugees, it may be the first time they’ve encountered a Christian serving them in love.
Other Syrian refugees who have been in the Lebanon camps for years already are asking questions about the Bible and hundreds have even accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior.
“Every month, we have over 1,300 Muslim-born believers in Bible studies and they are asking the deeper questions about their faith, their newfound faith.”
While this conflict seems to continue on a national scale too high for the average citizen to impact, we can go in prayer to our Heavenly Father who is above the nations.
“I would say the first thing we need to do is we need to pray for the end of the escalation or the possible escalation of this…one-time strike in Syria and hope it doesn’t become a back-and-forth retaliation. Obviously, we need to pray for peace in Syria. It has been seven and a half years and it doesn’t look like peace is any closer than it was seven years ago.”
Atema continues, “Pray for the innocent civilians in Syria. They got caught in the middle of this. They have lost loved ones and some of them have decided to just quit and come to Lebanon. How do we minister to them? How do we effectively deal with their emotional hurts and pains?
“I would say lastly, this is a little hard to mention, but pray that we at Heart for Lebanon will stay focused on what God does best, and that is allowing us the privilege of turning a negative situation into an opportunity for His redemptive love and forgiveness to come through our staff to the Syrian refugees living in this country of Lebanon.”
(Header photo courtesy of Open Doors USA)