The Syrian civil war killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions of families whether internally or to neighboring countries. Most of them are still unable to go back to their homes and villages, and their situation is not getting any better. In Lebanon today, approximately one in four people is a Syrian refugee. Although they have always lived in precarious conditions, the compounding crises Lebanon is going through are impacting them in the worst way. The collapse of the Lebanese economy and banking system, hyperinflation coupled with mass unemployment and the COVID-19 pandemic, have left the country on its knees. In just one year, the percentage of Syrian refugee households living in extreme poverty in Lebanon jumped from 55% to 90%! With more and more Lebanese families falling into poverty too, tensions are on the rise between the refugees and their host communities. Rabih, a Syrian father of five, is very much aware of the problem:
“This country can no longer handle us refugees and I feel that after 10 years, I have become an unwelcome guest. The economic crisis has worsened the refugee crisis, and the other way around. If I make any money at all, I feel that a Lebanese person is more deserving of the money I make.“
Alongside the consequences of international sanctions on Syria, the crises in Lebanon had a ripple effect throughout Syria and sent the Syrian pound to new lows. Furthermore, the COVID pandemic led to a shortage of wheat as Russia had limited its exports. All of these events have brought, in the last year alone, an additional 4.5 million people into food insecurity, making 12.4 million Syrians food insecure. That is nearly 60% of the population! One of our church partners in north-west Syria sums it up quite tragically: “Before, there were bombings everywhere, but we could put food on the table. Now, it is somehow safer, but people are starving.”
Our local church partners, compelled by compassion and deep conviction, have selflessly and tirelessly responded to the needs of vulnerable families affected by the war. At a time when the overwhelming needs around them could easily discourage them, their vision and faith keep them going, and the hope they have in God does not waiver no matter the circumstances. David is in charge of the relief ministry of his church in Lebanon. He recently told us: “If God wasn’t with us, we would be utterly devastated. But we have a living hope in God and that is what encourages us and lifts our spirit. We continue our ministry because we know God is on our side and He is blessing our work. We believe He has a purpose in bringing all these people to our door.”
Through the steady and holistic support of our church partners to vulnerable families around them, God’s light keeps on shining brightly and on drawing more and more people to Him, from all backgrounds. Father Nicolas, with whom we work in south-west Syria, confirms:
“The relief ministry enhanced the image of the church. It helped us become a lighthouse in our area and strengthened our witness. In very dark circumstances, we pray and work to remain messengers of hope. Sometimes we feel that simply visiting the families is enough to give them some form of hope. Our presence by itself comforts them.”
This feeling is certainly shared by the families our partner churches support. Fatima, a mother of five displaced within Syria, recently had these beautiful words: “The visits from the church team give me strength, joy, and hope in this difficult time. They treat us as if we were family. They are sincere, gentle in listening, happy to help and give. They don’t discriminate between families. I feel comfortable to tell them everything that worries me, and it comforts me to know they are by our side. They helped restore my dignity among my peers in society.”
Despite the many challenges, we are convinced that no amount of darkness will ever be able to overcome God’s light. On the contrary, just as you can best see the stars when it is fully dark, we trust that God’s light can only shine brighter and brighter as the darkness continues to spread.
Please pray for our church partners, that they would remain firmly grounded in God and filled with the hope, peace, and joy that can only be found in Him. Please pray for the situation in both Syria and Lebanon to get better and for God to provide for the people’s every need as they suffer and hurt.
“We have no idea what tomorrow holds and chances are it will keep on getting worse and worse, but we always hope and pray for the best. Historically, no war has continued forever. We are hopeful that our civil war will stop at some point, hopefully soon, so we can start actively building our country back. Until then and as long as we are able to hold on to what we have in God, we will be OK. We need to always keep on smiling. God is good.”
 In just one year, 78% drop in the value of the Syrian currency and 236% increase in average price of food basket (as of December 2020)