How would we respond if we found out that two million refugees would be coming into Scotland? Refugees who needed medical help, housing and food. Refugees who are fleeing a civil war in their homeland. Refugees, many of them children, who have witnessed the death of family members at close quarters and have been severely traumatised by such experiences?
As Christians we would say that we would welcome them and want to help. But, stop for a moment. Think of the consequences of so many people coming to our small country.
Would we, could we, find shelter for everyone? How and where would we educate the children? Would our much loved NHS cope with such an influx of people, many of them children, who have been physically and mentally scarred by their experiences? The task would be extremely daunting. But that is the reality for our brothers and sisters in Lebanon.
Over 6.5 million Syrians are displaced within their own country and nearly five million have fled into neighbouring countries like Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.
Fr. Paul Karam, the Director of Caritas Lebanon, visited SCIAF recently to explain the work he and his colleagues are doing to support many of the 1.5 million refugees now living in his country.
He told us how the number of refugees continues to grow as the situation within Syria worsens. Reception centres and mobile clinics have been set up to feed and care for people but the impact on the people of Lebanon has been severe. Schools are operating on a shift system to try to ensure every child has an education. The whole social infrastructure is under severe pressure.
Such a huge challenge requires all the support we can afford to give. In material terms money donated to SCIAF’s appeals is helping to provide basic necessities: food parcels, clean water and wash kits containing soap, nappies, sanitary towels and other essentials to help stop the spread of disease; accommodation and blankets to protect against the cold winter nights; and heaters and cooking equipment to keep body and soul together.
But they also need our prayers, and to know that, as we approach the Christmas season and look forward to family gatherings, they and their families are in our hearts and our prayers.
“Accept one another, then, for the sake of God's glory, as Christ accepted you.” Romans 15:7
Lost in a sea of strangers, stripped of any sense of belonging, security or identity, our sisters and brothers are scared and at the mercy of others. Lord, we pray for all refugees throughout the world. Help us to follow your example of reaching out to the stranger, the poor and the marginalised. Help us to create a world where refugees find the peace and acceptance they desperately need.
To give to the SCIAF Syria appeal visit: ww.sciaf.org.uk or telephone 0141 354 3555