I often wonder what the future will hold for the children of Syria.
March 2017 marked the seventh anniversary of the Syrian conflict. Since the war began, some 400,000 people have died, 6.5 million are internally displaced, and 4.2 million have fled as refugees.
The date also marks the fifth anniversary of MCC’s response to this human-caused disaster. To date, MCC has provided more than US$48.5 million in humanitarian relief through our partners.
In the gospels, Jesus characterizes true hospitality: food and water for the hungry and thirsty; an invitation to the stranger; clothing for those without; care for the sick; and visitation for those in prison (Matthew 25:35–36). Our practice of hospitality in the midst of a protracted crisis like the Syrian conflict must focus on immediate needs, like the ones Jesus mentioned. But we must also pay attention to the future. Today’s children are tomorrow’s leaders.
In March 2013, I visited our work with Syrian refugees in Lebanon. We accompanied staff and partners to improvised school settings for Syrian kindergarten children in the cities of Beirut and Sidon.
“If the conflict were to end,” we asked, “would you go back to Syria?” The response was often a snap of fingers: “Tomorrow!”
Four years after our visit, the oldest kindergarten children are almost through grade school. If they are still in Lebanon — and relatively few have left — the parents may still be looking for work opportunities to support their families. Lives in suspension for both parents and children.
This issue of A Common Place focuses on what MCC is doing to contribute to a positive future for the children of Syria. War will not last forever. And while not all current Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries will return home, many will. An educational foundation for these boys and girls will build a positive future for the Syria they will lead.
MCC Canada Executive Director