Since October 7, as a direct consequence of the conflict in Gaza, worrying tensions simmer in South Lebanon, where cross-border shelling persists, resulting in extensive damage to crops and property and occasionally, in civilian casualties. Over 55,000 people have been displaced from towns and villages near the border, and we live in constant anxiety that the conflict may escalate further and spread to the rest of Lebanon.
After the short ceasefire, hostilities resumed, making it impossible for families to go back to their homes in the South. They are now reluctantly preparing themselves to face winter while being displaced. Maha is a Lebanese mother from the Southern village of Rmeich. She shares:
“We thought we were going to stay away for a few days, until things calmed down. But we still can’t go back and we don’t know when we will be able to. If we have to stay here through the winter, it will be a disaster. We don’t have furniture or winter clothes, and we ran out of savings. Thank God, MERATH provided us with food, mattresses, and blankets. It gives us a sense of security. There is something very comforting in knowing that someone is here for you. The hardest is for the children, though. Their school closed and they are not receiving any education. They are sitting at home, wasting precious time, and they feel scared and lost. Our hope is to be back on time to celebrate Christmas at home.“
These past weeks, we have been reminded that we live in a region marked by deep instability, susceptible to erupt at any moment. The fear that it creates and the unbearable images of suffering we witness trigger traumatic memories and lingering psychological distress. The July 2006 war in Lebanon, the Syrian civil war, the political instability, economic collapse, the Beirut port explosion, the COVID-19 pandemic, a cholera outbreak, and the devastating earthquakes of February 2023 have all contributed to a worrying surge in humanitarian needs and an accumulation of stresses and traumas left unaddressed.
Children have borne the brunt of these challenges, developing a fear of death and bearing witness to their families’ enduring stress. Many have endured repeated, months-long school closures, disrupting their education. Some have even been forced to forego schooling, either to work or enter early marriages to alleviate their families’ financial burdens.
In times like these more than ever, children and their parents yearn for the comfort and routine that attending school provides. Through several education centers in Lebanon and child friendly spaces in Syria, MERATH offers psychosocial support and quality Christian education in safe and loving environments to thousands of children, helping them thrive academically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Ultimately, we know that Jesus didn’t only come to show us how to live a good life: He came to give us life. Similarly, as we seek to follow in His footsteps by caring for vulnerable children, the desire of our hearts is that these acts of love would lead to the salvation of many.
Because we work through Christian partners, most of our work opens a door for Christian testimony and many people end up asking and learning about Jesus. Most of our education centers are run through churches. They instill in their students Christian values and ethics which the children take back home, occasionally leading their entire families to Christ. Maha is a Syrian refugee mother whose children have been enrolled in a MERATH partner education center:
“To this day, the only safe haven for our children has been the church’s learning center. They feel valued, and they love their teachers dearly. Thanks to the support from the church, our faith has increased. We have become very close to Jesus. We are now 100% sure that He is with us and that He listens to our prayers. We trust that God has better plans for us.”