In a world with so many news headlines and ever changing world events it can be difficult to know what is happening across the globe and how it impacts us. Recently the Syrian Refugee Crisis has been in the news with heart wrenching pictures and videos of families from Syria seeking asylum in the countries surrounding Syria. But when the problem is worlds away from where we are it can be difficult for us to know what we can do to help. The staff at Ivanrest decided it would be good to provide some additional insight into what is happening in Syria as well as some thoughts on how we as individuals and as a community can respond to the Syrian Refugee Crisis.
So what is happening? When did all of this start?
A civil war has been raging in Syria for four years with several different groups fighting and causing dangerous and violent environments for civilians. The war was sparked when the Syrian Government killed three civilian protesters. Since the beginning of the civil war the Syrian government, rebel groups, and ISIS have all been warring in attempt to take power, but have been at a stalemate since the start.
Who is being affected by the civil war?
Syrian civilians have been attacked by each of the groups in their efforts to take power. The violence and war has caused almost 12 million people to flee their homes. Approximately 7.6 million people have fled to find safety in other parts of Syria and more than 4 million have sought refuge in surrounding countries. It is estimated that more than 240,000 people have died as a result of this conflict.
Where are the refugees going?
Most have gone to Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, and now Hungary and other European countries. Over one million refugees have fled to Lebanon. Over 600,000 refugees have fled to Jordan, which has four refugee camps (Za’atari, Marjeeb as-Fahood, Cyber City, and Al-Azraq). Over one million more refugees have fled to Turkey, which has over 20 refugee camps near the country’ s border. Over 200,000 refugees have fled to Iraq which has limited ability to take in refugees due to their own conflict. This is the largest mass migration of people since World War II.
What is happening with Europe? Why are they not taking in more refugees?
While some countries have opened their doors to Syrian refugees, other European countries are hesitant to take in refugees due to limited capacity. Many of the Syrian refugees are trying to travel through Hungary to other countries, however Hungary is trying to prevent them from traveling through their country. Unfortunately the Prime Minister of Hungary has publically expressed that Muslims are not welcome in Hungary and has set very strict policies against refugees.
What is the United States doing about the Syrian refugee crisis?
The U.S. has been slow to take in Syrian refugees despite pressure from other countries to take in more. The U.S. has a lengthy and strict process for accepting refugees including refugees cannot be connected to ISIS or other extremist groups due to fears of terrorism. This makes it difficult for individuals from Syria who are often have distant connections to someone associated with those groups. The U.S. has, however, provided funding to the UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency) to be distributed to the countries taking in Syrian refugees.
Who is helping with the situation?
There are number of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) working with refugees in Syria and the surrounding countries. Some of these organizations include World Renew, Samaritan’s Purse, Church World Service, Mercy Corps and World Vision. These NGO’s help to provide things such as access to water, food, and shelter as well as education and safety for children and families.
What can we do to help?
- The first and most important thing we can do is pray. Pray for those who are fleeing Syria in search of safety, for those who are providing support for refugees and for the leaders and governments that are making decisions about refugee assistance.
- Helping others to know about what is happening is important. The more people know about what is going on the more people will take action. Even something as simple as sharing a news article on Facebook can help raise awareness.
- Financial support is vital to the organizations serving refugees. World Vision and Mercy Corps both have made it possible to make personal fundraising campaigns that you can share via social media to raise support from your friends.
- Contacting our legislators to tell them we would like the U.S. to do more for the Syrian refugees can make a significant impact. Make a phone call or send a letter or email to your senators and representatives telling them you care about the Syrian refugees and would like the U.S to do more.
Here are some helpful resources if you would like to learn more:
Organizations working with refugees:
Facts and figures:
Stories of the refugees: