Reflecting on the Syrian Refugee Crisis…
Over the past few weeks, we have been faced with stories and images of the horrible humanitarian tragedy of Syrian asylum seekers in Europe. And while the media coverage has shifted toward the ongoing European debate about protection of borders and security (which resonates with the majority of Americans), it is easy to lose sight of the fact that as Europe copes with tens of thousands of asylum seekers in Germany, France and those attempting to walk the Chunnel, there are over 3.9 million Syrians stuck in refugee camps or make-shift housing in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey. In addition, there are still Syrians 7.6 million displaced persons within Syria, some suffering under the arbitrary rule of various Islamist militias, including DAESH (al-Dawla al-Islamiyya f’il-Sham – the Arabic for what we know as ISIS). And as we unfortunately know, those most directly impacted by this war are women and children. It is important for us to remember that DAESH has not only targeted religious minorities, especially the Christian communities of Syria and Iraq, as well as destroying the world heritage sites of the region, but they have spilt the blood of the Shi‘a, Druze, ‘Alawi, and other Sunnis who do not abide by their particular literal view of Islamic sources.
I’ve had several people contact me recently, asking how they or their congregation might respond to this refugee crisis. There are at least two highly reputable faith-based relief organizations that are working with local partners to alleviate the humanitarian needs of the refugees and displaced persons: Lutheran World Relief and Catholic Relief Services. These two international organizations have the capacities to receive and administrate financial donations that go straight to assist Syrians. The ELCA and the PC-USA have also been active in supporting relief services in Jordan and Lebanon, respectively. There are, undoubtedly, many more NGOs and SMOs that are helping, but these are the ones of which I know and to which I have donated. In addition, the American Islamic aid agency, Islamic Relief USA , a partner to Islamic Relief UK, has been extremely active, as well as the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
Prayer, financial support, and concerned advocacy are extremely important faithful responses to this crisis. Given our country’s current debates about migration issues and security, I have very little optimism that there is enough political will to positively impact the humanitarian crisis.