Thousands of Syrians continue to flee the violence in their homeland, becoming refugees in neighboring countries as they leave behind their homes, family, friends and sources of income. Many organizations, including CRS and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, are providing assistance as the number of Syrian refugees grows.
The Washington Post reports on the situation:
If you need a measure of how desperate Syria’s refugees are, contemplate this: Many are fleeing to Iraq.
It’s astonishing that Iraq, once the refugee equivalent of the Titanic, has become a lifeboat. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that there are 15,096 Syrian refugees in Iraq, and that they are among 100,000 Syrians who have fled to Jordan, Turkey, and beyond since Bashar Al-Assad’s regime began fighting with opponents in March 2011.
Who are these refugees? Children and families make up a huge number. At Jordan’s Za’atri refugee camp, according to a UNHCR spokesperson, children accounted for 60 percent of new arrivals in one week. Syrian troops recently killed a six-year-old boy fleeing to Jordan.
Camps such as Za’atri, with blasting heat and brutal winds, are a harsh place for children and parents alike. Over these new tent cities hang questions: Will the world’s attention span last longer than a news cycle, and what will be done to save people in danger if the crisis worsens?
For Christians, these questions are not rhetorical and the answers are inescapable. Leviticus 19 commands us to love and care for refugees. To love is to welcome, not abandon. Therefore, we are commanded to embrace people fleeing violence and persecution, from Syria or anywhere else.
The Washington Post adds:
Experience shows that things can quickly turn deadly for refugees. Foresight and preparation can mitigate those disasters. Should the Syrian refugee crisis deepen, those same values should guide a well-managed, secure, and humane refugee program. And because there are Muslims and Christians across the spectrum of refugee-serving humanitarian bodies worldwide, such a program cannot help but model the virtues of interfaith cooperation. The list of partners in the UNHCR’s Syria Regional Refugee Response, which includes everyone from Catholic Relief Services to Muslim Aid, attests to this cooperation.