Serving Lebanon’s Syrian refugees, no strings attached

By December 3, 2019

Lebanon (MNN) – Lebanon is in the midst of a financial crisis and ongoing protests. For the 1.5 million Syrian refugees in the country the situation is exacerbating already dire needs.

A Time of Great Need

Refugees from around the region now represent one-fourth of the population of Lebanon according to the Migration Policy Institute.  The country is struggling with youth unemployment, inflation, and  nearly 1.5 million of native Lebanese are below the poverty line.

These factors are having a knock-on effect for already struggling Syrian refugees. Seventy-four percent of these refugees do not have legal residency according to Human Right’s Watch’s

Image courtesy of Kaufdex via Pixabay

2019 report.  Lacing residency, displaced Syrians risk exploitation and expulsion from Lebanon.  Access to education and health care is also limited. In the 2017-2018 school year 300,000 of the estimated 631,000 Syrian refugee children were not in school.

The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that Sixty-nine percent of Syrian refugees are below the poverty line. More than half are unable to meet basic survival needs and 83 percent had borrowed money. Aid has been and continues to be essential for Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

Aiding the Most Vulnerable

Middle East Revive and Thrive (MERATH) is one organization trying to meet these needs. An arm of the Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development, MERATH partners with on the-ground churches to reach the most vulnerable, in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq.

MERATH’s work focuses on meeting basic needs notably food, health care, and winter items. For children, MERATH provides quality non-formal education for those out of school. MERATH’s church partners work among the most vulnerable, whoever they are.

Learn more about MERATH programs here.

Although they also serve vulnerable Lebanese, the organization is finding the most in need are often Syrian refugees, says MERATH spokesperson Sophie Nasrallah.

Serving Without Strings

Serving with no strings attached is a core principle of MERATH work. By serving unconditionally as Jesus did MERATH partner churches maintain the dignity of those they serve. In practice that means separating aid from church activities, Nasrallah says.

“When Jesus healed the 10 lepers only one came back. Didn’t he know that only one would come back? He knew, but he still had compassion of the others and he still healed them. No strings attached. So we just follow Jesus example, as much as we can.”

Photo courtesy of Jametlene Reskp via Unsplash

Those served often respond to this approach with shock and interest.

“A lot of people that we work with actually end up asking questions to our church partners but from a genuine interest. Not because they feel they have to pretend they’re interested to know more to get the help,” Nasrallah says.

This church-based approach creates personal connections and relationships. Recipients are known by name not by number. The churches themselves are even benefiting from serving these vulnerable members of society. Churches are seeing a revival from the inside and witnessing miracles.

“In the Middle East, there is this strong heritage of  tribal societies. Christians are a minority and Protestants are a minority within the minority. So the tendency is…to be scared and to be inward looking to protect themselves. So opening up has been really transforming the churches from the inside and I believe it has given them a preview of how diverse Heaven will be,” Nasrallah says.

How Can I Help?

Consider donating to help these churches provide for Syrian refugees. In addition to food and meeting basic health needs you can support refugees’ long term well being.

“We also have education programs for kids that cannot attend any school, as well as psycho-social support and livelihood and recovery programs to help people learn skills and earn an income,” Nasrallah says.

Support MERATH programs here.

How Can I Pray?

Nasrallah asks Believers to pray for the church partners on the ground.

“Our church partners really are the superheroes because they are on the ground 24-7. They have hundreds of phone calls every week. So it’s very easy for them to feel overwhelmed,” Nasrallah says.

Ask for renewed strength, vision, and energy among churches as they continue to serve the most vulnerable.

Pray for stability in Lebanon as refugees and citizens alike face uncertainty. Ask for peace in the region and safety for refugees.

Header image courtesy of Michael Gaida via Pixabay.

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