The refugee crisis is one of those human tragedies for which there seems to be no real solutions, at least that is what some would have us to believe. Some options may be better than others, but there is nothing that can honestly be called a solution. Nevertheless many countries, including the United States, could do a lot better. The immediate problems are the masses of desperate men, women, and children, fleeing from the wars and terrorism of the Middle East, who are flooding into Europe. And sadly, not all of them make it to the shores of Europe alive!
The United Nations defines a refugee as “Any person who, owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.” According to the UNHCR, some 19.5 million people met these criteria at the end of 2014. That number has almost certainly grown, given ongoing conflicts in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere. And about twice that number – 40 million — are “internally displaced,” uprooted and forced to seek shelter in their own country. Over 42,500 such people a day are forced to flee their homes and seek protection elsewhere.
Anyone with a sense of decency and humanity would want to help those who have been through harrowing experiences and have arrived, exhausted and desperate, on the shores of Europe. The question is, “What can we do?”
We are told that there are nearly 12 million displaced Syrian and over 4 million are refugees and half of these are children. Of course, this does not include the numerous refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Somalia, as well as other countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa. To get a better sense of the magnitude of this crisis, imagine that the entire state of Maryland — with a a population of about 6 million— were filled with refugee children from Syria alone. It is said that 50 Syrian families are forced to leave their home and become refugees every hour of every day!
The pleading eyes of children hurt and homeless because of the Syrian refugee crisis and civil war cry out for help. Hundreds of thousands of them are in harm’s way in Aleppo and other parts of Syria. And in Iraq, children and families are oppressed and endangered in the fight to retake Mosul.
“The children of Syria have experienced more hardship, devastation, and violence than any child should have to in a thousand lifetimes,” says Dr. Christine Latif, World Vision’s response manager for Turkey and northern Syria.
The Syrian conflict has reached its fifth year, but the European aspect of the refugee crisis it generated has dominated news headlines since the summer of 2015. Numerous academic panels have been convened to discuss how the European Union is (not) coping with its increasing numbers of asylum seekers. A supra-national entity of 500 million, the E.U. is up in arms at the 1 million Syrian refugees who entered its borders last year. To put this in perspective, that’s about the same number of Syrian refugees currently in Lebanon, a country of just 4.5 million. In other words, nearly 25% of the population of Lebanon today are refugees from other countries. While the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region currently hosts around 4.8 million Syrian refugees alone (not to mention Iraqi, Palestinian and many others), they are treated more as passive refugee-hosting vessels than as actors with their own interests.
Why are Syrians leaving their homes?
- Violence: Since the Syrian civil war began in 2011, as many as 386,000 people have been killed, including nearly 14,000 children, says the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The war has become more deadly since foreign powers joined the conflict.
- Collapsed infrastructure: Within Syria, 95 percent of people lack adequate healthcare, 70 percent lack regular access to clean water. Half the children are out of school. The economy is shattered and four-fifths of the population lives in poverty.
- Children in danger and distress: Syrian children — the nation’s hope for a better future — have lost loved ones, suffered injuries, missed years of schooling, and witnessed unspeakable violence and brutality. Warring parties forcibly recruit children to serve as fighters, human shields, and in support roles, according to the U.S. State Department. -World Vision
Many families are walking more than 1,400 miles simply to get to Serbia’s border with Hungary! It’s like traveling on foot from New York City to Houston. If they are walking all day, every day, it takes 50 days of a hard journey with all their possessions on their backs — and many are walking much, much farther. And most of their traveling is in desert terrain.
Someone has said to try to get a grasp of the immensity of this problem – with the Syrian refugees alone – Imagine this, it would take 233 Yankee Stadiums, which seats about 54,000 people) to seat the nearly 12 million Syrian Refugees.
What are the refugees’ greatest needs?
- Syrians fleeing conflict need all the basics to sustain their lives: food, clothing, health assistance, shelter, and household and hygiene items.
- They need reliable supplies of clean water, as well as sanitation facilities.
- Children need a safe environment and a chance to play and go to school.
- Adults need employment options in case of long-term displacement.
Of course, the greatest need for Syrian refugees, as well as any refugee, is to know Christ as their personal Savior. May God’s people pray, give, and go to meet all of the needs of these dear souls, especially their need for the love of Christ!