Lebanon (MNN) – The Freedom Fund, an international initiative to fight slavery, just released a report that reveals a growing number of Syrian refugee children in Lebanon are being forced into labor, being trafficked or both.
In 2013, Lebanon launched a national action plan to eliminate the worst forms of child labor, including among Syrian refugees, by 2016.
Here’s why: over one million Syrians have fled to Lebanon, where they now make up a quarter of the country’s population, which is roughly two-thirds the size of the state of Connecticut. Many have no legal right to work, and families are forced to find other ways to pay for food or healthcare. If the Lebanese government learns that Syrian refugees are working illegally, they will lose their UNHCR card and residency papers.
There is also no official provision for refugee camps. The tent city in Bekaa Valley is comprised of refugees who rent their space, with the permission of the local municipality. Others find ways to rent space in apartments or squat in abandoned buildings.
What this scenario represents is the fight for survival. It’s grim, but better than the choice of staying in Syria. World Mission President Greg Kelley offers this perspective on the situation: “The body of Christ really has been presented with a tremendous opportunity, because doing ministry in Syria is a far different task than doing ministry in Lebanon, being the only country in that part of the world, in the Middle East, where it’s not illegal to convert from Islam to Christianity.”
Meeting needs. Which one needs addressing first: physical or spiritual? How about ‘both/and’ suggests Kelley.
“The physical needs are overwhelming. If there’s a way that we can parallel meeting some of the physical needs of these refugees with the Gospel message, with World Mission provides in our solar powered Treasures (audio Bibles) in the Arabic language…that’s the winner.”
World Mission’s partner in Lebanon has asked for help, and because of generous donors, they’re helping the struggling Christian church both with financial aid and Treasure (solar-powered audio Bible) distribution.
The reason it works? Presence. Not only are the teams storytelling their way through the Gospel, but,”they’re sharing the Gospel through a form of follow-up. After people come to know Jesus, they’re using the Treasure because so many of these refuges are illiterate.”
In other words, the Treasures are speaking to refugees, who are Muslims, about the saving grace of Jesus at a time when their hearts are open. The end goal: getting new believers plugged into a local church body.
If it sounds like a repeat formula, that’s because it works. The Word of God changes everything from the inside, out. Meeting some of the physical needs in a way that keeps kids from responding in desperation can keep them from being forced into labor or being trafficked. At every turn, when the body of Christ is there looking for a way to be Jesus, it begins to prompt change.
“When people come into contact with authentic Christianity, they’re drawn to it. It goes way beyond the physical realm. There’s a spirit-connect when people see an authentic Christianity in action.”
Click here if you want to help World Mission’s Syrian refugee project or sponsor a Treasure.