Sadness poured from Zalika’s* dull eyes and gaunt face as she told a CAM staff member about her headache and stomach pain. Zalika had come to the makeshift clinic that CAM set up in her village. A staff member shared, “When I asked about her life, her sad story spilled out.”
About two months ago, Zalika, her husband, and their five children were sleeping soundly when they were abruptly awakened by their neighbors who urged them to run. The militias were invading their town and were notorious for kidnapping and killing. Zalika and her family quickly grabbed a few items, slipped on their sandals, and ran for their lives. She shared, “I wish I would have grabbed my shoes!”
The family found refuge in a village, but then the roof caved in on the house where they stayed. They tried to gain entrance to a refugee camp but were turned away because it was full. The family went back to the village and now lives in a mud barn. They use one of their few blankets for a door and have little money to buy fuel for the heater. Zalika shares of going to bed hungry many nights.
Across the Middle East, this desperate scene is all too common. In northern Syria, a few families use sheets of plastic to divide a former prison cell into living quarters while their children play in the courtyard. The cold, dark halls offer no comfort, but this abandoned detention center was the only available shelter they could find. Others sought refuge in schools, abandoned buildings, and makeshift tents. For many, this is not the first time they had to flee, and they wonder if there is any safe place left on earth.
Several months ago, CAM staff members were able to travel throughout war-torn western Syria for the first time. The conflict is largely resolved in this part of the country, but the awful results of war are evident everywhere. Entire city blocks lie in ruins with no signs of life. Shattered high-rise apartment buildings overlook acres of destroyed houses and empty streets. A CAM contact reported that he saw people digging through garbage for food and cooking weeds to eat.
“We met children who are mentally handicapped as a result of the bombing, and widowed mothers who are left with no means of income,” said a staff member. “Some pleaded with us to help them find some way to support their families, and others thanked us profusely for the food parcels.”
In the Christian quarter of Homs, Syria, laundry fluttered from the balcony of the only house on the street that was repaired enough to live in. Christians are urged to return to their homes, but the odds are great. Many of them have exhausted their life savings trying to survive the war. If they want to return, they have to repair their homes and perhaps face the reality of living alone in the rubble of an abandoned street.
While the war has been winding down and is no longer a focus in news headlines, the people are suffering more than ever. In Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, and Iraq, refugees still languish in camps while waiting to return home. Two battle fronts in Syria displaced hundreds of thousands in the past months.
CAM staff members and contacts across the region are working to provide food, medical care, and other aid while researching ways to help those who wish to return home. However, we are facing 2020 with a funding deficit for this project. As funds are available, we would like to continue to show God’s love to those attempting to recover from the brutal wars in Syria and Iraq. If you would like to help, your support and prayers will be a blessing.
God bless you!
*Name changed to protect identity.