Syria (MNN) – Syrian refugees are starting to return to their home country, which is changing outreach and ministry programs and the community of different areas.
Returning to Syria
“With international changes, also the [Lebanese] government pressures and even the international pressure for seeing [refugees] to go back home, we can feel it not only in the camps, but everywhere we go,” says Nuna, Triumphant Mercy International’s Director.
Nuna says she’s met young children working at shops in Beirut and asked them why they’re were not in school.
Human Right Watch reports there are 1.5 million school-aged Syrian refugee children in Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan. Half of them do not have access to formal education.
Many refugee children face barriers to enrolling in schools in their host countries because of child labor, language difficulties, and requirements such as identification registration with the government.
However, Triumphant Mercy is seeing families and children who are not able to attend school in Lebanon returning to their home countries.
Nuna notes Triumphant Mercy’s community center in Beirut has already said goodbye to children who have returned to their homes.
“It’s not a mass-exodus, but it’s more on a personal [scale], just a few at a time. But, it started. The migration back started.”
A Shift of Efforts
With the change of the atmosphere and community, comes the responsibility of adapting ministry efforts.
“We cannot keep ministering the same way,” Nuna says. But, “we can keep testifying the same way. So, we keep [sharing] Christian testimony. Now, we’re trying to think of ways that are accelerating our impact so that when they go back to Syria, that something would be stuck in their minds and in their hearts about Christ.”
Along with ministry efforts, Nuna says the schools will also need to transition. Their goal is to see the number of students decrease in places like Lebanon and increase in Syria.
Triumphant Mercy knows it is important for students, and even for children who haven’t attended school, to have a safe and healing place they can go to on a regular basis as they return to their home country and start resettling.
“So many people have missed years of school in Syria, [and] so many kids are going back. They were not with us. They were not schooled. They will need a transition. They will need to come to a place where they can start to come back on a level where they can actually enter the public school. So, we have lots of work to do there.”
Triumphant Mercy is beginning to tell teachers in Lebanon how they can prepare kids as they return.
For instance, in their schools, they’re holding mid-year and quarterly exams and giving students certificates for each term completed, proving how far they’ve come in their level of education.
Triumphant Mercy is starting a school in Damascus where children can restart and continue their education. Through it, they hope to bring educational, spiritual, and emotional healing.
Challenges in Returning
Nuna says one of the challenges is knowing how to help refugees return.
She also says there is need for mental preparation due to “psychological trauma that was there because of what they experience in Syria needs to be worked on so they will not have fear anymore to go back. That’s now the challenge for us. It’s not anymore how to accommodate them to come. It’s more like to prepare them psychologically to go back,” Nuna says.
“This is now our role, I think, in the next season – prepare them psychologically and emotionally to go back home and at the same time, having them know that we are already there. So, that helps them know that at least [they] have somebody there who can help [in Syria].”
Another challenge Triumphant Mercy has been faced with both in Lebanon and will continue facing is working with a generation that has ultimately been forced to raise themselves –in all respects, a fatherless generation.
Nuna says parents have been focused on finding resources, finances, and security, so they haven’t been able to raise their children.
Though the war in certain areas of Syria has died down, the scars of it have been left on this generation, and they haven’t had strong parental figures to guide them, showing them right from wrong.
Drug abuse, smoking, and alcohol use are all growing among kids, especially in refugee camps.
“This is not usual in Islamic regions. Alcohol is prohibited, but yet, now, you can just see alcohol everywhere, even inside Syria in the Islamic areas,” Nuna says.
As refugees continue returning to Syria, pray they will remember who Christ is, pray they will choose to follow Him and share His Word with the neighbors back home. Pray for the fatherless generation to see that God is the ultimate Father who will always be there for them.
Pray also for the rebuilding of Syria and that organizations will help financially and with building resources.
Finally, pray for Triumphant Mercy’s school and for civilians’ safety. Nuna says the war is slowing down, but a battle is coming to the north of Syria.
“They’re getting ready. They’re moving all the troops there and we can see that the battle is going to start. Whether they would come into Lebanon or not, I don’t know.”
Encourage refugees in your area and financially support Triumphant Mercy’s work here.
Header photo courtesy of Triumphant Mercy International.