Archive for the tag “Syria”

‘And they were not afraid to die’

isis-killing-iraq-crisisMark Kelly writes at kainos:

My mind focused in prayer this morning on the Christians in Iraq and Syria who have been suffering at the hands of infidels — evil, ruthless men who blaspheme the name of Abraham’s God by brutalitizing innocents. My heart breaks for every woman and girl kidnapped to serve as slaves to these wicked men. My anger burns for men and boys executed simply because they maintain a Christian home. I am devastated for families who have had to abandon all their worldly possessions and flee for their lives to places where they will have no way to provide for themselves. I grieve for Christians who live under this fascist perversion of Islam, afraid to publicly acknowledge their Lord. I am filled with pride for Christians who have refused to deny Jesus and met bravely death with his peace in their hearts.

You can make a difference
Rep. Frank Wolf is speaking up in the halls of power for these powerless one. Encourage him.
Learn more about the persecution of Christians at the ERLC website and in our archives.
Help Baptist Global Response provide survival supplies for refugees driven out by the Middle East crisis.

Cross-posted on kainos

Women pay a high price for Syrian civil war

Eden Nelson writes for our communications partner, EurasiaStories.com:

womenMIDDLE EAST — The room is filled with Syrian women, all with similar struggles, similar fears, similar despair. Each was drawn to this place where they could hear stories about God, about Jesus — stories they have never heard before.

As the Bible study comes to a close, a few of these displaced women began sharing of how they came to live in a country that is not their home.

Jala,* a refugee, now shares a one-bedroom apartment in Lebanon with her husband, two sons and mother-in-law. Sitting in a poorly lit, old, crowded apartment, Jala makes a bold announcement.

“People really need to pray for the women in Syria because they are being raped,” she says.

Jala describes some of the horrific things she has seen and heard — women being raped in their homes or while fleeing the country and some being taken as brides of the militia.

God’s Beloved is a small booklet featuring six New Testament stories specifically tailored to help you point Muslim women to Jesus. Click here to learn more about this resource.

“They steal, they kill and they rape in the name of God,” Jala says.

In the two years since the war began, the death toll in Syria has climbed above 90,000 people. The plight of women, though, is seldom discussed.

Other women at the Bible study reiterate Jala’s point — pray for the women.

“They steal, they kill and they rape in the name of God.”

It’s common knowledge in the Middle East that it is easy to find a Syrian bride.

In a culture where honor is highly esteemed, a woman is considered defiled after suffering an assault. Many families struggle with how to react and marry their daughters off quickly.

A Washington Post article published in November 2013 focused on the growing reality of Syrian brides being married off to men from around the Middle East. “Of course I would rather her marry a Syrian, someone from our community, but what can we do?” Abu Yousef said of his daughter, whose husband was killed in the Syrian uprising.

Yousef reluctantly consented to the arranged marriage of his widowed daughter, 27, and her three children to a 55-year-old retired Saudi engineer.

Many families like Yousef’s are allowing these marriages in order to remove their daughters from refugee camps, hoping they will find a better life.

In the countries surrounding Syria — Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Jordan — single mothers can be seen walking the streets begging for money or food.

Some women have become prostitutes in order to provide for their families. “Women are prostituting themselves in Lebanon for between 5,000 and 10,000 lira (about $3 to $6),” says Christian worker Catherine Steel.* With no husbands and no job skills, these women find prostitution is their last resort.

Andrew Harper, a representative of the UN refugee agency UNHCR, said on BBC News, “I can’t think of anything more disgusting than people targeting refugee women. … You can call it rape, you can call it prostitution, you can call it what you want, but it’s preying on the weakest.”

In a situation that seems desperate, women are left not knowing what to do, how to provide for their young children or how to survive. Praying for these women is tremendously important, Steel says.

Another challenge is that many married women do not leave their houses because their husbands fear their new city and the dangers it may hold.

“Their husbands are their lives — everything they do is decided by their husband,” says Steel.

She asks the church to pray for the husbands as well.

Most Syrian women are accustomed to going outside only with a man, their mother or with an older son. “If you do not have that right now, then you do not go out,” Steel says.

So countless women remain cloistered indoors as their husbands search for work, waiting and hoping that they can soon afford to have food on the table again.

*Name changed
You can assist with relief efforts among Syrian refugees through BGR.

Syria: The sounds of war echo in the children’s ears

Syrian children are being crippled by the ongoing violence in their country. The war has become “the biggest humanitarian tragedy since the Rwandan genocide,” says UN refugees commissioner Antonio Guterres. An estimated 3 million Syrians have fled the country, 6.5 million are displaced within the country, and 3 million more need humanitarian help.

Our humanitarian partner, BGR, shares this compelling story:

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Click photo to enlarge

BEIRUT, Lebanon — With dirt on her face, the small girl shyly approached the crowd holding a pack of lighters for sale. Barely reaching the height of an adult’s waist, she glanced upward at passersby asking in Arabic if they would purchase one of her multicolored lighters. When asked how old she was, she responded shyly that she was 4.

Walking the streets of Beirut, Lebanon, it is impossible to miss the children weaving through the cars and crowds. They walk up to strangers holding items to sell, such as lighters, roses, gum packets and a variety of non-essential items.

As each day passes of the Syrian conflict that began in March 2011, the childhood and futures of many Syrian children are threatened.

The conflict erupted into a full-scale war that has destroyed homes and schools — and left the children’s innocence in the rubble. Children have watched as they lost family members and as explosions destroyed their schools. Some have experienced physical wounds themselves.

More than 5 million Syrian children are affected by the ongoing conflict, and it is estimated that more than half of the 2.2 million Syrian refugees are children, the UN says.

As many families have been internally displaced, children are forced to begin to work to help provide for their families, are recruited for the militia or are advised to stay in doors to not be harmed. Some children have been out of school for three years and are forgetting what they have previously studied.

Rayan* works for a ministry in Syria whose sole initiative is to provide education and trauma therapy to children. She explains how many of the children have lost their fathers and brothers to the war, the men fighting on either side of the forces.

While the teachers provide the children with the opportunity to learn English, Arabic and math, the teachers also believe it is important to teach the children not to have hatred or suspicion of one another and learn to love each other.

“Children feel like they are rejected. They are feeling [this] because they are children of rebels or terrorists and feel conflicted,” Rayan said. “People tell them they are the reason for why everything is happening. But I say, ‘You are children. God loves you. You are not the reason for what has happened; you are the hope of Syria.’”

In addition to the threat of young boys being involved in the fighting, girls face the risk of sexual violence. Desperate not to subject their daughters to potential horrors, many families are deciding to marry their daughters to suitors in Syria and abroad. Early marriage sometimes is used as a “cover” for sexual exploitation, a recent report from Save the Children said. The girls are “divorced” after a short time and sent back to their families.

Outside of Syria, children face a different type of potential harm.

An increasing number of children have taken to the streets of Lebanon to sell or beg for money. Lebanon houses more than 826,669 registered Syrian refugees, with 52 percent of them being children. Many of the children are not in school and they are resorting to street work or manual labor to help provide for themselves or their families. The UN is launching a “Back to Learning” campaign, which “provides for informal education so children don’t fall too far behind.”

Another country greatly affected by the war, Jordan, is working alongside NGOs to provide schooling for Syrian refugees. More than half a million Syrians that were registered with the UN refugee agency at the end of September, were women and children. Children from 5 to 17 make up 25 percent of the Syrian refugee population in Jordan, according to the New York Times.

Organizations throughout the region are fighting not to let this generation of children be forgotten. Faris*, a Christian Syrian, said, “We have so many kids that are growing up with the sounds of war. These kids — they shouldn’t have to listen to that. They should have a place that is peaceful and secure and not have to worry about the war. That is a big [prayer] request,” he said.

As Syrian Christians are working tirelessly to help the children around them who are struggling, organizations and ministries are working outside of Syria. The reason Rayan continues in her ministry to children in Syria is because “we want to show them that we are always available for them. We are standing with them.”

*Names changed for security reasons.

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