Lent Remixed, Week 6: Syria

March 18, 2013

For week 6 of Lent Remixed, we are focusing on the Syria, specifically on  the children of Syria.
Photo from Freedom House on Flickr
Syria is in the midst of an armed uprising since March of 2011 (which is now being described as a civil war by the international Red Cross). 

Between 50,000 and 70,000 Syrians have been killed in the conflict with a staggering 1,129,019 Syrian refugees that have fled their country and are living, often in refugee camps, in neighboring countries. 

The UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency) estimates 8,000 Syrians flee Syria everyday into neighboring countries with an estimated 3 million refugees by the end of 2013 if the conflict continues.  

These numbers do not count people who have been internally displaced within Syria.  

For the Syrians who have not fled, their lives have been disrupted, damaged and put into chaos. UNCIF estimates at least 500,000 Syrian children are refugees and 2 million children have been affected inside Syria.

In some areas of Syria, only 6% of children continue to attend school.  Tens of thousands of children have been out of school (or any meaningful school) for two years. Thousands of schools have been closed, damaged or converted for other uses. 

The country's infrastructure is being destroyed -- and access to clean drinking water and health care is becoming increasingly scarce. And, as with all wars, it is the children who are the most vulnerable victims in a variety of human rights abuses.

What can we do?   

Pray.  First and most important, we pray. Prayer changes lives. Prayer changes circumstances. Prayer changes hearts.

Fast.  Second, this week we are giving up cosmetics or personal care products, depending upon your gender. I know, this is tough. Really tough. It is the makes-me-want-to-take-vacation-all-week-long-and-stay-home-from-work kind of tough. I am not going to stay home. I am going to go to work...and meet with clients...with no makeup. When I get the opportunity, I'll tell people why. And whether they "get" it or not, I'll understand. And the pimple that suddenly decided to appear the moment I decided to give up makeup for the week??  Well, I guess that is just dandy. *Sigh.*

Give.  If you are looking for a link that goes directly to the children of Syria, here you go:  http://www.unicefusa.org/work/emergencies/syria/.

Do something.  Although there is little we can do for Syrian refugees besides pray and provide financial support, Minnesota has its own large population of refugees from Somalia. 

Because people sometimes think of refugees and immigrants interchangeably, I looked up the definition of "refugee."  The Webster Dictionary defines refugee as: "one that flees; especially: a person who flees to a foreign country or power to escape danger or persecution." Refugees come to another country because they face death or persecution in their own country. They are not immigrants.

Somalia's civil war and years of intense drought have lead to famine, human rights atrocities and displacement of millions of Somali people. Minnesota contains the largest population of Somali refugees outside of Somalia, partly because they find a community that reminds them of home when they come to Minnesota.  And who can blame a refugee for wanting to go to a place that reminds them of their homeland? 

The Somali women we see on the playground with their small children, at the store, or at your school have often lived through war experiences and circumstances we simply cannot imagine. Smile. Say hello. Determine not to let cultural differences, religious differences and misunderstandings prevent you from being kind to someone who may have lived through things you've only seen in your nightmares.   

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