Lebanon (MNN) — Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun on Friday began pushing for safe zones in Syria that refugees can go back to. The president stated that Lebanon would not force Syrian refugees to return, but the international community must start to collaborate so it is safe for those who wish to return to Syria.
It’s not the first time an international leader proposed the idea for refugee safe zones in Syria, but Lebanon especially has reason to push for solutions to the refugee crisis since the neighboring country has taken in around 1.2 million Syrian refugees.
At this point, the Syrian government opposes such refugee safe zones, and says a collaborative effort by the international community would violate Syria’s sovereignty.
Meanwhile, Syrian adults in Lebanon are starting to find basic work. And Christian Aid Mission’s Steve Van Valkenburg says, while nations engage in grand-scale debates, it’s the kids who especially suffer.
“Typically the kids fall through the cracks because the family is trying to survive. Even if you have a husband and wife there, still, they’re probably both working. And the kids, if there’s no school, they’re running around during the day…. There’s all kinds of people preying on them and there’s an opportunity for vices and drugs and trafficking, so it’s not a good situation.”
To help, ministry partners with Christian Aid’s support in Lebanon just started two new tent schools for refugee kids, and two community centers as well.
“It’s important for kids to be in a school. Hopefully, a school would be a slice of normalcy in the midst of chaos. Hopefully, a school would provide a mature adult authority figure that can bring stability to their lives…. Also it gives them potential for their future, in that if they have education, then possibly they can find something to do and become self-sufficient as they get older,” shares Van Valkenburg.
“Ministries will have schools, also vocational training centers like teaching sewing or auto repair, jewelry making, hair dressing, accounting, writing, computer skills — all those kind of things help the young people to have hope for the future.”
In addition to the schools and community centers, Christian Aid ministry partners gave blankets, portable stoves, kerosene vouchers, and other winter necessities to approximately 400 refugee families.
Also, Van Valkenburg adds, “they actually put up I think three playgrounds just because they felt that the kids needed someplace to go to instead of just wandering around in the streets.”
The driving motive behind it all? To share the sustaining and powerful hope of the Gospel. “The teachers there are going to be Christians and they’re going to be teaching biblical values and teaching the Bible.”
When seeds of the Gospel are planted with kids, it’ll often foster conversations about the Bible at home, and parents and siblings can start to ask questions as well about Jesus Christ.
In the midst of politically-charged debates and national security conversations right now, it’s important to remember the refugee families who need help now, wherever they are — and who need the encouragement of the Holy Spirit right now through the support of the Church.
“I would love to see people really get behind the whole need for developing schools for the refugee kids. There’s just such an emotional need, spiritual need, physical need — all of those are covered.”
To get behind this Gospel ministry to refugee kids and families, there’s a few things you can do….
Pray for refugee kids who are out of school right now, that someone would see them and bring them into a school where their young minds can be sharpened. Pray that these kids and their families would become curious about the Bible and Jesus Christ.
Another big way you can help is by financially supporting this ministry through Christian Aid Mission. Refugee parents often cannot support the schools their kids go to, and the ability to provide this education relies heavily on the generosity of others. For Christian education and teachers, it relies especially heavily on the Church.
Van Valkenburg explains, “One main stumbling block is that it costs so much, especially if you’re going to put up a real brick and mortar type of school, the curriculum, the building and everything, it costs a fortune. Even a tent school, if you have curriculum and paid teachers and have basic supplies, it’s still very expensive. I mean, a school can easily cost $60,000 a year just for those basic things.”