Lent Remixed - Week 3: Syria

March 16, 2014

Image from UK Department of Int'l Development via Flickr
Syria. When I hear that word, I do not think of politics, military strategy or who is “right” and who is “wrong” in that conflict (all important, different subjects for a different day).  

Instead, I think of think of the over 2 million* children, 40% of that nation’s next generation living interrupted lives with inadequate access to education.**

"When one says that it is the worst place to be as a child, in Syria, for now, I would agree," said Hamida Lasseko, UNICEF's deputy representative in Syria's capital Damascus. "Children are missing from education, they are out of school. Children have the hidden wounds, and these wounds form scars."***

For children living as refugees in neighboring countries, the struggle to integrate these Syrian children into the public school systems involves barriers related to overcrowding, lack of resources, and different languages.**** 

If you joined us for Lent Remixed last year, this post feels familiar. We spent a week praying for Syria’s children last year and felt the need to do so again this year.  

And, I’m encouraged to say that change is happening. There is an outcry against losing an entire generation of children, the future of the Syrian nation.  

UNCIEF’s #childrenofsyria, among a number of other groups, has stepped forward to spreading awareness and taking specific action steps (like bringing in teachers for informal education in tent refugee camps).     

And so.  What can we do?

Pray.  First and most important, we pray. Prayer changes lives. Prayer changes circumstances. Prayer changes hearts. Prayer makes the impossible, possible.  

Fast.  Second, this week we are fasting from TV/videos/movies, this includes Netflix and Amazon Prime -- for those of us who stream online instead of having cable.    

Give.  If you are looking for a link that goes directly to the children of Syria, here you go:  #childrenofsyria.  Spend a few minutes checking out their site -- they are gathering stories and disseminating resources. It's powerful.

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 refugee 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 intentionally kind to someone who has likely lived through things you've only seen in your nightmares.  

*Statistics and sources vary, but most agree that the number is more than 2 million children.

** UN: 2.8 Million Syrian Children Out of School, The World Post, March 11, 2014

*** Id. 

**** For Most Young Refugees from Syria, School is as Distant as Home. The New York Times, December 21, 2013.

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