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Sharing Christ’s Hope in Syria and Lebanon

August 2, 2023
Photo: World

On Feb. 6, 2023, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake rocked southern Türkiye and northern Syria. It was followed by a magnitude 7.7 aftershock and an estimated 10,000 aftershocks, including 54 with magnitude 4.3 or greater. Nearly 60,000 people lost their lives, and more than 100,000 were injured. Thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed, leaving many survivors homeless. World Renew is responding.

In Syria, where 11 years of civil war had already taken a harsh toll on families, the quake affected 10.9 million people – almost half of the population – leaving an estimated 5.3 million homeless.

This crisis has also added to the heartache of Syrian families who sought refuge from the war in neighboring countries, including Lebanon. Refugee families were left worrying about their loved ones in the quake-impacted region as they themselves struggled with the challenges of rising food prices and a harsh winter.

World Renew, through local church partners, has been working in Syria and Lebanon for the past 11 years. With funding from Canadian Foodgrains Bank and generous donors, World Renew has provided food baskets, winterization kits, and other essentials to families in both countries.

Jamila,* a married mother of six, receives food baskets through World Renew. Having enough food for her children is always a concern, she said, “But I believe and trust that God provides. Every single month we wonder how we are going to survive, and yet we do survive.”

She shared about some of the trials her family faced in Syria and about their decision to seek safety in Lebanon: “Before the war we had some land and several houses. We were living well, and we didn’t have to pay rent because we owned our house. But the lack of security during the war ultimately made us move to Lebanon. Our village was occupied by ISIS at some point, and, being a woman, I could never go out alone. If I wanted to go to the supermarket, I needed to take my husband or brother with me. If I was outside alone or with a man, even if he was my brother-in-law, they would kill me and the man. It was very hard for us to leave Syria with everything we had, but ISIS made life impossible there. We were forbidden to wear anything colorful, only black. All my face had to be covered, even my eyes. If a woman would still choose to show her eyes, they would execute her without warning. Men too had restrictions in what clothing they were allowed to wear. . . . Because of all these things, we came to Lebanon.”

Life in Lebanon may be free of the terrors of the war, but for Syrian refugee families like Jamila’s, those fears have been replaced by concerns of not having enough to meet their basic needs. “Two of our children are at school, but transportation costs alone are becoming increasingly unaffordable. We wish we could travel outside the Middle East so that our kids could have a better future. My son always tells me we are not living like human beings,” Jamila said.

Thanks to generous people who support World Renew’s programs in Lebanon, Jamila feels Christ’s love and hope through the food baskets and other essentials they receive through World Renew’s local church partner.

“I had known the church for some time before I asked for their help. I liked to attend their Bible studies, and the kids would go when they had special activities for children. When I asked if they could help us, they first visited us to meet with the entire family and see our home. So far, we have been taking two monthly food parcels,” Jamila shared.

The rising cost of basic necessities has strained the budgets of Syrian refugees in Lebanon and local people alike. The Lebanese pound (LBP) has devalued from 1,500 LBP for $1 USD to more than 90,000 LBP for $1 USD.

Boghos* is a 60-year-old Lebanese man who used to own a dollar store on the main street of his town. But because of the economic crisis he had to close the business two years ago and has been jobless ever since.

He has a lot of health issues. He has fallen several times, has become absent minded, and suffers from incontinence. But with no income, he could not afford food or sanitary supplies. His neighbors tried to help him, but with struggles of their own, they turned to World Renew’s local church partner for support. The church helped Boghos with hygiene supplies, and he is benefiting from a Canadian Foodgrains Bank-funded food-assistance project.

In Syria, World Renew’s partners have been working to address the needs of people displaced by the earthquake, providing much-needed food, hygiene, and winterization support to over 43,200 highly vulnerable, crisis-affected individuals. The partners reported, “Their voices overflowed with gratitude for the support received.”

One participant who received support said, “The instant aid that you sent, very shortly after the devastating earthquake, was a lifeline for the people who had to flee their houses and seek refuge in the fast-established accommodation centers in churches and monasteries. The food and hygiene baskets, in addition to the blankets, provided them with the basic necessities required for survival. The food baskets contained enough nutritious items to feed the families for weeks, and the hygiene kits helped them maintain their health and dignity in these difficult times.”

*Names changed to protect identities