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12 March 2013

Call to prayer as Syrian crisis intensifies

Call to prayer as Syrian crisis intensifies

Katie Harrison, head of media at Tearfund, writes after meeting Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan…

Just last week, we heard that the official number of Syrian refugees had reached a million. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), who released this figure, there are also thought to be thousands more Syrians in Lebanon, Jordan and other countries who haven't yet made themselves known to the authorities and so aren't receiving help.

But they need a lot of help. When I was in Lebanon and Jordan last month, all the Syrian refugees I met told me of having possessions taken from them during their journey out of Syria; of having to leave their homes quickly; of not being able to bring treasured possessions.

Children weren't able to bring their toys. One family proudly showed me some school certificates which marked a full year's attendance in primary school at Syria. They were the only things their children were able to bring with them.

Those children don't go to school anymore.

In fact, those children are deeply traumatised. They have nightmares and walk in their sleep.

Other parents told me their children scream whenever they hear fireworks or a plane going overhead. It reminds them of the shootings, shellings and bombings they heard near to their homes in Syria.

The only things those children have brought with them are some very bad memories. It's going to take a long time for them to heal.

And for their mums and dads too, much healing is needed. Women cried as they told me of a child dying in the refugee camp because they had very complex health needs and couldn't get treatment. Others yelled at me in frustration as they described the struggles of trying to look after their children while not knowing if their husbands are alive or dead.

Many people are sick or have disabilities that make life particularly challenging, especially if they are living in tents or in bare rooms in an unheated flat with no food.

Some have brought elderly relatives with them, and told me of the challenges of caring for grandparents who are blind or who are losing their memories and have found the move disorienting and frightening.

So many needs and, thankfully, many people are now getting help. There are lots of organisations like Tearfund, a member of the Alliance, who are making it possible for vulnerable people to keep a roof over their heads and get their children back into school.

But there are always more people coming. As life in Syria becomes even more impossible, the pressures on the workers helping refugees intensifies and we need to make sure they have all the resources they need.

This Thursday (14 March), many of the agencies working in Syria and neighbouring countries are calling people to stop for a moment and remember those who have been caught up in the violence in Syria; for those who are in exile and trying to rebuild their lives, and for those who are still in Syria and desperately trying to leave.

There's going to be a vigil and Tearfund are calling for Christians here in the UK to join together in prayer for the thousands of people suffering. Please join with us in praying for God's comfort, mercy and peace, and please give what you can.


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