By latest count, UNICEF estimates that one million Syrian children have become refugees, since the start of the civil war. One million children are displaced, homeless, and surviving in camps or have been taken into homes and communities in Jordan, and elsewhere.
Let me put that into perspective for you. Imagine if the entire city of Austin, Texas were made up of children, and that whole city was forced to evacuate to Houston or San Antonio, and they had to walk the whole way. Some of them would be alone, without a grown up to love and care for them, or make sure they were safe at night. Some of them would be wounded or recovering from attacks. Most of them would have seen things that no one, no matter how old they are, should ever see. Some of them would have watched their parents or siblings or relatives die in front of them. Some of them would be in shock. All of them need to be loved. Chaos…chaos and questions with no good answers, and the incredible strain on infrastructure, and no end in sight, either to the conflict or the on-coming tide of more people being forced out of their homes.
One million children who don’t have political loyalties or understand why they are being forced to leave have seen with their own eyes the horrors of sectarian violence that you and I cannot even begin to fathom. And that’s to say nothing of their parents, caretakers, surviving relatives, and remnants of their communities. These children, by and large, unless an almighty change begins and is effective, will spend months or years growing up in refugee camps. Most of them will not have access to the kind of educational opportunities, or physical and mental health care that should be the right of every child, everywhere. And we have to ask ourselves what coming of age in a refugee camp does to a person. One of my political science professors was fond of reminding us that moderates do not grow up in camps.
I don’t have any answers for what to do with or for these children, except to pray. One million children…one million little lives, just at the cusp of understanding, little people who should be out in the sunshine, and not walking a long and dangerous road into a tented camp…it’s enough to break your heart. I’m absolutely bowled over by the hospitality the people of Syria’s neighboring countries have shown to those displaced by war, especially the people of Jordan.
Not to get all geo-political and preachy on you, but I wonder what we would do if over two million refugees from Mexico or Canada started pouring over our borders, seeking refuge and solace and peace. Would we take them into our homes, into our families, would we be willing to make space for them in our parks and industries and daily lives? Some days, I doubt that very much. I am so grateful to the communities in the Middle East who have taken Syria’s displaced people, especially the children, into their lives with such grace and mercy. I am humbled by it, and challenged to ask hard questions about the way the US treats refugees and those seeking asylum from all sorts and kinds of violence and strife.
If you have a few extra pennies, there are a several very good and very reputable organizations that can put them to work, helping these little people and their families have better days. Some of them you can find here: http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/06/world/iyw-how-to-help-syrian-refugees/index.html. You can also visit http://www.episcopalrelief.org to find out how you can help, as well. As always, your thoughts and prayers, your awareness of the situation and willingness to share your information goes a long, long way to helping them, as well.