Lebanon (MNN) — Syria’s myriad of issues isn’t a one-country problem. It’s affected the entire region. The United Nations Refugee Agency says 4.9 million refugees have fled from this country alone. Lebanon currently has over one million refugees.
Tent Schools International has been working with leaders in these communities to provide education for children. It’s an attempt to fight a long-term problem. Children from countries that have been disrupted like Syria are suffering. In the blink of an eye, these uneducated and underprivileged generations will be the leaders of their countries and have to rebuild. Tent Schools wants to bridge that gap.
Dale Dieleman of Tent Schools says, “What if every child in the United States of America from sixth grade down to preschool was not in school and had not been in school for the last six years? What would that do to our country? What would that do to our country’s future? This is the case in countries like Syria.”
With a growing resentment towards refugees, Syrians face difficulty in Lebanon. The Huffington Post says the country has made no moves to let them integrate or register. They cannot work and have zero rights. In addition, there is growing fear that newly elected President Michel Aoun will put action behind the anti-refugee sentiment and force them out of the country.
Dieleman says regardless of what happens with this, they will choose to focus on the good: “We want to remain positive. Let’s put it that way up front. We want to also focus on what has been going on, what is being accomplished, even if it’s a small, small story from here or there. It keeps us going, and we believe through our partners in Lebanon, it keeps those children going, the ones in the tent schools.”
He says doors may close, but there will still be opportunities to reach out because it’s a global issue that won’t go away.
The impact of education
Rihab is an 11-year-old Syrian who has lived in Lebanon for five years. She’s only had one year of education so far, and is attending Tent Schools this year. She has five brothers and sisters.
She loves the education she’s getting because the teachers take time to make sure she is understanding her lessons.
Dieleman says, “She wants to learn more English, and she also wants to learn different languages so when she leaves school, she can be an advocate for others.”
This is what Tent Schools is all about. They want to give children a chance whose childhoods have been severely disrupted by the fighting in Syria. And, it’s all based on the teachings of Jesus.
“I really think planting those seeds of hope and a future, a career even, in the minds of these students is really what keeps them going. They need to know their life does not end in a refugee camp, but there is a future beyond the camp, even if they are sent back to Syria at some point or go back to another host country,” Dieleman says.
The faces behind the crisis
Discussion about refugees is not limited to this area of the world. Many countries have taken in refugees to be integrated. However, conversation usually turns into disagreement. In the United States presidential election, it was a hot topic for debate.
Dieleman says Christians must carefully consider this issue.
“These are human terms, these are not political terms. These are not political decisions, they are human decisions and decisions we have to make, especially as Christians, when we think beyond ourselves and think of the betterment of our fellow human beings, especially the children.”
These children are not only loved and cherished by their families, but because they are created in the image of God, they are precious to Jesus too. And that is our starting point for understanding this situation.
“In a way, we are all refugees. We always have been and we always will be. We are strangers in a strange land. We are in the world but not of it.”
In short, this is a moral, ethical, and biblical issue.
Dieleman suggests we internalize these things and encourage others to stop and really think about the people behind the crisis.
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