Christian refugees from Syria living in Lebanon face both severe economic crisis – worsened by last year’s devastating port explosion – and the Covid-19 pandemic. Release partners are helping families to survive – and to find new hope and strength in Christ.
Around 1.5 million Syrian refugees live in Lebanon today – more than one in four of the population – and more per capita than any other country in the world.
Fleeing war and persecution, these refugees must also contend with increasing economic hardship, compounded by the continuing Covid-19 pandemic. Some 80 per cent of Syrian refugees lack any legal status – and most live in extreme poverty.
Rashid, for example, fled from Syria four years ago with his family after extremists attacked his town and attempted to take over the local police station. During prolonged gun battles they had to lie on their bathroom floor for days at a time, leaving his wife and children terrified.
His youngest son, now 16, suffers from diabetes – which Rashid believes was brought on by these traumatic experiences.
‘The extremists also stole bombmaking materials from shops and threatened to kill any witnesses,’ said Rashid. ‘We were barely able to survive.’
Today Rashid and his family live in one room of a residential block, which they clean each day in lieu of paying rent. They don’t have a regular income – but are dependent on tips they receive from residents. Given Lebanon’s current financial crisis, Rashid is grateful that his family has somewhere to live.
The country’s economy has deteriorated rapidly in the past two years – exacerbated by the chemical blast in the capital’s port which killed more than 200 people in August 2020.
Unemployment is estimated to be over 30 per cent of the labour force – and all people have suffered high inflation after a dramatic devaluation of the local currency.
‘Despite these hardships, we’re thankful we can live in Lebanon as refugees,’ said Rashid.
Release’s partner Heart for Lebanon has been giving the family a food parcel every month – part of their aid programme which supports 200 Syrian refugee families. Each package includes cooking oil, rice, lentils, pasta, pulses and tinned goods. Families are also given a large bag of cleaning and hygiene products, such as washing powder, soap and disinfectant.
Ramona and her extended family have also benefited from the aid programme. Her husband, a farm worker on a minimum wage, cannot afford to pay rent – so they and their children share accommodation with her mother and two sisters. The monthly food parcels have helped the whole family to survive. Earlier this year Ramona began to attend a Bible study organised by our partner – and is now a committed member of the group.
‘I was emotionally lost, distressed and lonely. Then I started hearing about God’s love and His purpose in my life.’
‘God has changed my life through these lessons,’ said Ramona. ‘At first, I was emotionally lost, distressed and lonely. Then I started hearing about God’s love and His purpose in my life.’
She says that now she feels much happier, more peaceful and more confident – and that her change of heart has helped relationships with all her family. ‘I am overwhelmed with joy and thankfulness, for everything seems different – even with my family,’ she added.
Recently one of the refugee families being helped by our partner sent them a voice message to express their gratitude.
‘My family and I thank you for your faithfulness in distributing food every month – especially during the lockdown,’ said Elias. ‘We were in darkness and you showed us the way into the light. Thank you for bringing God’s Word simply and clearly.‘
‘We appreciate your hard work to support us physically and spiritually and we pray that God will keep you safe in the midst of this pandemic.’
Your support also enables another Release partner to share God’s love with refugees in Lebanon. Part of their ministry is to develop outreach and discipleship teams – which include leaders who have emerged from the refugee community.
‘We are thrilled day after day to see how lives are being transformed’
‘The main purpose is to reach out to people with the love of Christ, to help those who have taken a step in faith to grow spiritually, to lead Bible study groups, and to meet the needs of people physically and emotionally,’ said our partner.
‘It is very important to bring together new believers so they are able to learn from each other by sharing their experiences. Through the discipleship training, they get to know what it is to live a Christlike life. Loving people, caring for others, is not just words.
‘Our people are learning how to connect with others on a daily basis, to reflect God’s love towards them and to show them what true compassion is.‘
‘We are thrilled day after day to see how lives are being transformed by the love they receive and through the message of the gospel.’
Names have been changed.
Population: 5.3 million
Government type: Parliamentary republic
Religion: Muslim 61%, Christian 34%, Druze 5%
Sources: World Factbook.
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