Last week I saw an image of a Syrian boy. It disturbed to me the point that I had to look away. For a moment, when I saw this 12-or-so-year-old child, he reminded me so much of my nephew.
My nephew lets the others around him know how he feels. I have seen him upset, tired and laughing hilariously. At rare moments, I’ve seen also seen him afraid. That’s what I saw in the Syrian child. It was horrifying.
The fact that children are suffering is one of the brutal aspects of the Syrian crisis. Right now, more than half of all refugees are children. This does not take into account the displaced children within Syria.
Many are concerned that these children could become a “lost generation”—that they could grow up with an appetite for revenge.
In addition to the news of tragedy, I’ve also become increasing aware of the faithful churches on the ground in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan that are reaching out to these children. I believe that the message of forgiveness that these followers of Jesus embrace is the most hopeful thing they can offer these young ones.
How do I know these churches are meeting desperate needs in the midst of crisis? I read their reports. These churches are Food for the Hungry’s (FH) partners and an integral part of FH’s relief response. International officials have even said that these churches give FH an “edge” for effectiveness.
I am so grateful that, as Syrian children face horrors no child should face, compassionate men and women who know the forgiveness of Christ are reaching out to them in their need. These relief workers—who not too long ago had “regular” lives like you and me—are providing food, rent support, mattresses, blankets, hygiene kits and more. And they are setting up spaces for kids to play and just be kids—which these children desperately need to be.
In South Africa after the end of apartheid, leaders held a Truth and Reconciliation commission. They realized that if they could not forgive they would essentially implode as a country and have absolutely no future.
In addition to meeting the physical needs of this young and vulnerable generation of displaced people, we must address their emotional, psychological and spiritual needs. We must point them toward a message of forgiveness. Because without this kind of help, they could be a lost generation.
I am thankful that my nephew, whom I love so dearly, is far from this kind of violence. However, I do hope that he grows up to be a compassionate person who is ready to forgive when needed and reach out to people in distress. And may many young people from Syria have the grace and mercy to join him in this transformed way of living.
If you’d like to support FH’s relief work and the local church partners with whom we walk hand-in-hand, please visit fh.org/helpsyria.