Lebanon (MNN) – Last Friday’s double bombing in Lebanon targeted mosques.
According to officials, it’s an escalation believed to be connected to the Syrian war has compounded fears of increasing sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shiite groups in Lebanon.
Today’s news revealed that Syria is believed to be behind the most recent attacks, perhaps because some Sunni Muslim clerics have been fiercely opposed to the Syrian regime. In recent months, extremist Sunni groups have sent troops to Syria to fight on behalf of the rebels.
Historically, relations between Lebanon and Syria have been strained, especially with the 29-year Syrian Occupation of Lebanon (from 1976 to 2005). Syria has only recently officially recognized Lebanon’s sovereignty. If Lebanon goes to pieces, it is likely that extremist Shiite group , Hezbollah (strong supporters of the Syrian government), will take increasing control with support from Iran. Hezbollah has also been sending some of its own fighters to Syria to fight against rebel forces.
With tensions growing, some people have been opting to fight. As a result, Beirut, along with several other Lebanese cities, has been experiencing some of the worst street fighting and sectarian clashes since Lebanon’s 17-year civil war.
One of the cities that has experienced conflict has been Sidon, home to Kids Alive’s New Horizons center. “I think it’s fair to say that among a lot of Lebanese, there is a lot of fear, there is a lot of uncertainty, and there is a lot of tension in the country”, says Matt Parker, Vice-President of Operations for Kids Alive International. “The other situation of course is that there have been so many refugees that have come across the border from Syria into Lebanon.”
Parker goes on to explain that, “We have two children’s homes. We have a school. We have two Care Center projects working with over a hundred children. So, we’ve been monitoring the situation very carefully.” Their program has been running now for 65 years in Lebanon. That’s a lot of volatile history, but Parker notes that God has been faithful every time.
Kids Alive provides care to more than 150 children in Lebanon every year. One of their goals is to develop their work with refugees and other vulnerable children over the coming year. This year, with the trouble in Sidon, they had to close the Care Center early. Parker says that means it’s vital that they reopen on time because the “children that we work with in this Care Center come from very difficult situations. They really would have no opportunity to get an education without our support.”
Currently, Kids Alive provides an education, nutritious meals, medical care and the love of Christ to more than 145 children in Lebanon. This year, they hope to add 35 children to their Homes and Care Centers. That’s the largest number they’ve ever undertaken in one year, but the situation in Lebanon has created complications. “We’re supporting a number of refugee children in a school and our residential programs. We’re exploring what more we can do in that particular area.”
Typically, they provide education, health care, vocational training, assistance with developing micro-enterprise activities, and the love of Christ. Without the intervention of Kids Alive, these kids would have no future, says Parker. “Instead, they’d be begging on the streets or they’d be in child labor or early marriages, so we’re determined to re-open the Center as normal within the next few weeks.”
For the women of the community, vocational training workshops will be set up, where students will be taught sewing and jewelry making. The products from these will be sold in the markets in Beirut, a portion of the profits returning back to the project (so that it becomes self-sustaining) as well as the women and their families.
A medical clinic is also being established to meet the needs of these communities. Nurses will provide basic care as well as health education and advice, and they will be supported by a doctor and dentist who will perform surgeries on a regular basis.
It’s clear to see that the hope provided by Kids Alive through New Horizons is critical. Among all the messages Kids Alive sends, this one is the clearest amidst the turmoil: “They have a God who loves them and that they can rely on Him.”
For the kids growing up in war zones, it’s a way to preserve any childhood they have left. “Be praying for children in Lebanon who are growing up in such a turbulent, difficult time. Pray that the situation in the country would calm down. Pray for the situation in the entire region and for peace.”