Refugees in Lebanon
In May of 2013, I went with a team from the charity Giving Children Hope, to visit Syrian refugees in Lebanon. In Jordan, there was an official camp. Here in Lebanon, there is no official camp. Instead refugees live scattered throughout the region in cities and villages.
We visited a village where families of 8 live in 1 bedroom apartments. Children (along with the adults) have seen their former neighborhoods bombed, along with seeing lots of death up close and personal. Many of them have lost touch with relatives, not knowing their fate back in Syria.
Another neighborhood visited in Beirut is called Naba’a. It is densely populated an is receiving a surge in population, due to the Syrian civil war. Jobs have become slim as the demand is far outweighing the supply. The locals are growing tired of this. Rent costs have skyrocketed. One bedroom apartments are now housing on average 12 people. Then, the area is very territorial with pockets of people who simply do not like each other. “Do not like” is putting it mildly. There are Turkish areas next to Armenians. The Armenians hate the Turks and express it quite vividly with large graffiti saying “Fuck Turkey!”. Then there are problems with Shia vs. Sunni Muslims hating one another. In the mix, with an increasing presence/influence, is a group called Hezbollah. They are sort of the “protectors”, at least in their own eyes. Gang violence is becoming a norm along with prostitution…
All this to say, there are families living in the midst of all this. Many have small children. We got to meet some of the families here. Some are Christian, some or Muslim. Both have lost greatly in terms of losing family members to war. Some have simply lost contact for months, unaware of how loved ones are, if they are still alive. Some left, with their homes destroyed, and only wearing the clothes on their back. They are left with nothing to go back to.
This was all hitting me as we were walking through the neighborhood, seeing many of the personalities at play. The anonymous was becoming a little more personal. You read about places like this in the news, or hear of as places to avoid. These are far away countries, they’re just statistics, or a countless mob of another religion fighting inward and outwardly. I could think back over the years of hearing “they’re all terrorists, they’re all evil, they’re all wrong, they should be killed, they’re all hateful”…and to be honest, I’ve sometimes had those thoughts too. But in meeting some of them who just want to feed their children, have some safety and have a job, I gained a desire for all these in this neighborhood to be blessed. Then a fear started growing in my mind. What will happen these people? Will the fighting grow into bombs? How will outsiders view them? How can I help?
Seeing the baby picture, here’s food for thought. Psychologists say we’re mostly all products of our environment. If we all start as babies, what will this one become?