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Suffering in Syria

Syria, Christian Aid Ministries

The Syrian neighborhood feels abandoned as we walk its vacant streets. Apartment buildings once filled with life and sound now stand empty and silent. Blasted windows and blackened walls riddled with bullet holes reflect years of war. Occasionally, a sign of life is displayed by laundry fluttering from a repaired balcony. The residents inside long for peace and normalcy. They might not endure active fighting anymore, but face the discouragement of living amid ruin and struggling to provide everyday necessities.

Syria’s twelve years of war

This scene of devastation and struggle is repeated throughout the Middle East. Since Syria’s conflict has dwindled to pockets of sporadic fighting, it has mostly fallen from the world’s headlines. But 12 years of war leave the region broken and divided. More than 10 million Syrians remain displaced across Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and other countries (source: UNHCR). February’s deadly earthquakes in Turkey and Syria dealt another blow, forcing more than 2 million people from their damaged or destroyed homes and claiming at least 57,000 lives.

Syria’s shattered economy leaves many of its people grappling with few job opportunities and rising costs. Opportunities are especially scarce for women whose husbands died or went missing in the war. A CAM staff member who visited Syria witnessed women and children digging through garbage for food and things to sell. Many children have missed years of school because of facilities in ruins, parents unable to pay tuition fees, or children needing to work to provide for their families. Widows, children, and the elderly, left behind when their families fled, are some of Syria’s most vulnerable.

“We have reduced the meals we consumed”

Life is also challenging for Syrians in other countries. In Lebanon, an economic crisis is compounding refugees’ suffering. “We have reduced the number of meals we consumed per day,” said one mother. “For so many days, we went hungry. We were evicted because of our inability to pay rent.”

But deeper than these physical struggles are the emotional scars. Asma’s* family fled the conflict in their Syrian hometown, only to be uprooted again from their new home in a different city. The family decided to leave Syria for Lebanon. “As we crossed the checkpoints,” said Asma, “one of the soldiers arrested us and took my 7-year-old son Mustafa to interrogate him. . . . ever since, Mustafa . . . rarely speaks, is very introverted, and constantly feels fear and anxiety.”

Hopelessness and good news

A CAM contact says that hopelessness is one of the biggest struggles in Syria. “The hopelessness lies like a thick, dark fog above the faces of the country,” he says. “Hearing bad news every day makes Syrians long for true good news.”

It is here that we have the opportunity to share hope and good news with Syrians. Hammad, a Syrian father, met CAM contacts after fleeing the country with his family. Our contacts visited Hammad’s family, prayed with them, and began providing monthly food parcels. “When the team visited us, I felt we were not alone,” Hammad said.

Then an accident left Hammad severely injured and unable to work. Without an income, his family could not pay rent and other bills. When our contacts heard about Hammad’s accident and visited, he told them with tears, “I could not believe when my son told me that you were at our door. I was waiting for you to come and pray for us . . .” He expressed his gratitude for the food, medicines, and other support. “No one is supporting and remembering us but you.”

God’s direction and supporters’ care enable us to continue reaching out to Syrians through food, hygiene items, literature, winter supplies, and other aid. We also support self-help projects like animals and small businesses and fund small house renovating projects, hoping to help Syrians re-establish their lives and provide for themselves. “For thou hast been . . . a strength to the needy in his distress” (Isaiah 25:4a).

*Names in this article are changed to protect identities.

To help support the Middle East Crisis program, please click the button below to give a gift.


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Children’s Story: Amira’s burn heals

burn, Christian Aid Minstries

Six-year-old Amira is from a refugee camp in the Middle East. She was born with special needs. Her family loves her dearly. Amira loves her family too.

burn, Christian Aid Minstries
Amira receives bandages that help her burn heal.

Recently Amira was excited to go to her sister’s wedding party. But the happy party was suddenly ruined when a fire broke out and many people got burned, including Amira and two of her sisters. Her stomach was badly burned, giving her terrible pain.

A few days later a medical team from America came to Amira’s tent to treat her burn. She whimpered and glanced at the foreigners, a little unsure of them. Amira’s big brother talked her into a deal. He said, “You let them treat your burn. I’ll give you money to buy snacks.”

Amira was delighted with the money! She allowed the foreigners to treat her burn but slapped the nurse when she thought it was taking too long! After the bandaging was finished, Amira ran out the door with the money in her little purse. Soon she returned with a snack and a bottle of cola.

The medical team prepares the bandages for Amira.

Now when the medical team visits, Amira is happy to see them! When they arrive for a visit, Amira is often outside playing with her friends. She runs shyly into the tent to greet the women on the team with a kiss or her special thumbs-up fist bump.

Amira misses her sister, the bride who died from burns at the wedding. When her other twelve-year-old sister cried from pain as the medical team carefully removed the bandages that were stuck to her burn, Amira also cried with pity. But thanks to God’s healing and proper care, Amira and her sister’s burns are healing well. And it doesn’t hurt to have the bandages removed anymore! Amira and her family are so grateful for the medical team and the good care they provide.

Besides helping with burn care, we also give refugee children in the Middle East school supplies, food, and other things they need.
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Israel and Gaza conflict

Gaza - Israel conflict

In May, conflict erupted between Israel and Gaza, leaving behind a path of destruction and need. Tension in this region is not new. Long-standing feuds and sporadic bursts of fighting have occurred for decades, wedging a wall of hatred between these powers. During this most recent burst of fighting, the simmering tension erupted with rockets and airstrikes.

Eleven days of terror

For eleven days, this region experienced the most intense aerial exchange between Israel and Gaza since 2014.

The violence leaves thousands of innocent people in Gaza with sorrow, fear, and tremendous losses. Over 400 homes lie in ruins. More than sixty children were killed during the conflict. The damage to businesses and infrastructure further damaged Gaza’s frail economy.

“The children are traumatized, scared of everything, especially the slightest noise,” shared a family in Gaza. “When the mom . . . leaves for anything, the four-year-old daughter follows her. When the doorbell rings, she jumps in fear. The fear follows them into the night—she wakes up screaming from nightmares.”

Israeli communities near the Gazan border also experienced terror. CAM staff visited the home of a Christian in a coastal city. One day during the conflict he was working in his apartment. He had largely ignored the sirens and instructions to run to the bomb shelter because he wasn’t afraid. He left the room for a minute, and at that moment a rocket from Gaza struck the building. It killed a woman hiding in the closet of her bedroom two floors down from their apartment. The whole building shook from the impact, and five windows in their apartment blew out. Glass was everywhere.

“God saved our lives,” he testified. After this incident, he took refuge in a bomb shelter with his neighbors, although he still felt no fear. Many people asked him, “Why are you not afraid?” Part of his answer is written on a piece of paper on the door of his house: “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”

Peace?

Over a week after the first rockets were fired, a ceasefire took effect between Israel and Gaza, officially ending this burst of violence. Active fighting has ceased, but sorrow and destruction remain in the aftermath. A CAM contact in Gaza reports a huge need for food among the displaced who are sheltering in hospitals, schools, and relatives’ homes. Thousands of Israeli civilians struggle to move forward after days of taking refuge in safe rooms and listening to rocket sirens.

CAM staff members in the Middle East are working with trusted contacts to provide food, medical supplies, water tanks, water filters, and other aid for Gazans and Israelis affected by the conflict. We see this as a tremendous opportunity to share God’s love in the face of destruction. Our projected goal for the project is $300,000. If you would like to help, your support will be a blessing.

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Middle East conflict

Middle East conflict, Christian Aid Ministries

Hakim,* a Syrian man, suffers from uncontrolled diabetes and sores on his feet. Since he was displaced by the Middle East conflict, it is difficult for him to receive the medical help he needs.

When our staff met Hakim, he had only a small amount of medicine on hand, but he didn’t use it because he was afraid it would run out and he wouldn’t be able to get more. Recently, our medical team began to care for him by washing the sores on his feet and supplying him with medicine and cream. Within five days, the sores had greatly improved!

In addition to healthcare and medicines, our staff and contacts in the Middle East distribute food parcels, comforters, hygiene kits, and other aid to war-weary people.

Our goal is to continue assisting refugees in the Middle East, but we are facing 2020 with a funding deficit for this project. If you wish to help, your support will be a tremendous blessing.

*Name changed to protect identity.

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WAR IN SYRIA: Picking Up The Pieces

War in Syria, Christian Aid Ministries

Sadness poured from Zalika’s* dull eyes and gaunt face as she told a CAM staff member about her headache and stomach pain. Zalika had come to the makeshift clinic that CAM set up in her village. A staff member shared, “When I asked about her life, her sad story spilled out.”

About two months ago, Zalika, her husband, and their five children were sleeping soundly when they were abruptly awakened by their neighbors who urged them to run. The militias were invading their town and were notorious for kidnapping and killing. Zalika and her family quickly grabbed a few items, slipped on their sandals, and ran for their lives. She shared, “I wish I would have grabbed my shoes!”

The family found refuge in a village, but then the roof caved in on the house where they stayed. They tried to gain entrance to a refugee camp but were turned away because it was full. The family went back to the village and now lives in a mud barn. They use one of their few blankets for a door and have little money to buy fuel for the heater. Zalika shares of going to bed hungry many nights.

Across the Middle East, this desperate scene is all too common. In northern Syria, a few families use sheets of plastic to divide a former prison cell into living quarters while their children play in the courtyard. The cold, dark halls offer no comfort, but this abandoned detention center was the only available shelter they could find. Others sought refuge in schools, abandoned buildings, and makeshift tents. For many, this is not the first time they had to flee, and they wonder if there is any safe place left on earth.

Several months ago, CAM staff members were able to travel throughout war-torn western Syria for the first time. The conflict is largely resolved in this part of the country, but the awful results of war are evident everywhere. Entire city blocks lie in ruins with no signs of life. Shattered high-rise apartment buildings overlook acres of destroyed houses and empty streets. A CAM contact reported that he saw people digging through garbage for food and cooking weeds to eat.

“We met children who are mentally handicapped as a result of the bombing, and widowed mothers who are left with no means of income,” said a staff member. “Some pleaded with us to help them find some way to support their families, and others thanked us profusely for the food parcels.”

In the Christian quarter of Homs, Syria, laundry fluttered from the balcony of the only house on the street that was repaired enough to live in. Christians are urged to return to their homes, but the odds are great. Many of them have exhausted their life savings trying to survive the war. If they want to return, they have to repair their homes and perhaps face the reality of living alone in the rubble of an abandoned street.

While the war has been winding down and is no longer a focus in news headlines, the people are suffering more than ever. In Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, and Iraq, refugees still languish in camps while waiting to return home. Two battle fronts in Syria displaced hundreds of thousands in the past months.

CAM staff members and contacts across the region are working to provide food, medical care, and other aid while researching ways to help those who wish to return home. However, we are facing 2020 with a funding deficit for this project. As funds are available, we would like to continue to show God’s love to those attempting to recover from the brutal wars in Syria and Iraq. If you would like to help, your support and prayers will be a blessing.

God bless you!

*Name changed to protect identity.

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Refugees Face another Difficult Winter

Syrian refugees in need

For Ahmed and his family, this will be the third winter of living in an Iraqi refugee camp. He intended to move back to the city this past summer to rebuild his life, but there are no jobs available and he can’t afford to rent a house. Ahmed’s friends who risked the move back home tell him to stay in camp. His friends are running out of options and may have to come back to camp themselves.

In camp, some organizations have needed to decrease food distributions. Even basic medical services are cut. Unfortunately, for Ahmed’s family and thousands of other families like them, they have no choice but to face another cold, muddy winter in camp. Recently the camp generators were out of service for a week, leaving them in the dark.

Ahmed’s goal right now is just to make it through each day. As he thinks about the future, he hangs his head in discouragement and hopes he will someday have a life again.

Recent invasion brings more hardship

Across the border in northern Syria, a recent invasion sent hundreds of thousands fleeing from their homes again. Some of them fled to this area in Syria less than two years ago. In recent weeks, they took shelter in schools, set up makeshift camps in the desert, or crossed the border into northern Iraq.

The things they have spent their life working for are gone in a moment. They are left with whatever they could carry with them. New governments are being established on their ancestral lands and they have little hope of ever returning. Most of them will have to start life again at zero, but the unanswered question is, where?

The difficulty of winter

Iraqi refugee child
Our staff helped this little girl stay warm by giving her a donated cap.

This winter again, refugees around the Middle East stuff scraps of clothing into stoves to ward off the chill seeping through thin tent walls. In unfinished homes, they hang blankets over doorless openings in an effort to keep out the cold breeze. They stand in line for hours to collect a bit of soup or a food parcel. Inflation has devalued their currency, and economic sanctions have made it difficult to find and afford even the necessities. For now, they are obligated to rely on someone’s help or assume a debt they may never be able to repay.

As unrest and uncertainty continue to boil throughout the Middle East, the outlook for refugees and internally displaced people looks bleak. To them, it doesn’t look like the new year will have much more to offer them.

Ways we are helping

With your assistance, we are able to spread some warmth and hope to refugees in the Middle East. Blankets, clothing, and deliveries of coal are helping to take the edge off the chill. Food parcels and hygiene supplies are easing families’ financial burdens. Our medical staff members are able to offer much-needed assistance along with words of hope and encouragement. One recipient said, “Because you are here, we feel peace.”

Our goal is to continue assisting suffering refugees in the Middle East as funds are available. We are facing 2020 with a funding deficit for this project. If you wish to help, your support will be a tremendous blessing.