Syria has been undergoing a bloody and destructive civil war for the last four years. From Aleppo, Pastor Samuel* has been giving regular insights into what Syrian Christians face on a daily basis. Today he shares about a visit he made to more than 100 of his church members who have fled to the Lebanese capital of Beirut.
In Beirut I met with some Syrian refugees. Most of these are families from Aleppo. I gathered more than 100 of them into a hall. I gave them updates from Aleppo, particularly from the church there. After that, there was enough time for them to share their challenges. Many asked for help in their bittersweet life in Beirut. Bitter in the sense that they are refugees and sweet because they are no longer hearing and watching the bombs and rockets of Aleppo and are no longer living the difficult life of the people in the Syrian city.
Even though they are living in safer conditions, most of the families are not happy. I met several families of between 8 and 11 persons living together in two rooms. Most of them are suffering economically because Syrian citizens only receive 60 percent of the salary of regular Lebanese workers. But most can not even find work. In addition to underpaying them, employers often treat Syrian workers as second class citizens.
Many Syrians feel that Lebanon is one of the most expensive countries to live in. The rents are unbearable. Many owners of the houses and apartments ask that rent be paid six months in advance. Besides the high prices for housing, daily life expenses such as food, clothing and transportation are very costly. Unless all family members are working, they are not able to survive in the country.
When I talked with them about their future plans and about whether or not they planned to return to Aleppo when the war is over, their answer was: “After these past three or four years, it would be very difficult for us to return.”
The younger generation is not at all thinking of returning to Aleppo. In Beirut they are living “freely.” They don’t have to fear military service, being kidnapped or being killed. In fact, most of them are trying to find a way to leave Lebanon to settle in a European country.
Hearing the difficulties and hopelessness of the people, I tried to comfort and encourage the families. I explained about God’s strength and power. I tried to help them to be positive and full of hope. I was able to pray with the people as a group.
After group prayer, people approached me and asked me to pray specifically for them and their families. Their main request was: “You know us. Please, we want you to meet with us regularly. Thanks for this meeting.”
Syria is ranked No. 4 on Open Doors’ 2015 World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians.
*Name changed for security reasons
Compiled by Jerry Dykstra. For media inquiries, contact Christine Cape at 404-545-0085 or Katie Rouse at 678-410-9575.