At the Al Hanan kindergarten, the 75 little ones probably do not understand the profound significance of the name of their school. “Hanan” in Arabic means “compassion” carrying with it the broader nuances of “kindness,” “love,” “care.” For this all-Christian village in Syria of about 23,000 souls, 85 miles south of Aleppo, the Al-Hanan kindergarten and preschool has provided a haven of stability and normalcy – a sanctuary of love and care and compassion – in a place where the war still threatens, even while most of Syria is experiencing some peace.Read More
They were expecting forty-five refugee children this year at the school in Tripoli. When they reached one hundred and twenty-five, they had to stop enrollment as their resources were at capacity….
In 2015 with more than 1.2 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon (60% of those were of school age) the National Evangelical Synod [Presbyterian] Synod of Syria and Lebanon came up with a vision: open a school for 200 of these refugee children and offer them the Syrian curriculum so that they could both build upon their previous education and be prepared to return to their “normal schools” once the war was over. The Synod was not a novice in the field of education, as they have operated schools in Lebanon for over 150 years. Two refugee schools were opened in the Beqaa Valley where vast tent cities of refugees had been formed. Another one would evolve north of Beirut in Minyara, and a fourth was needed south of the capital in Tyre.Read More
In late July I took a small team of women (Sheryl Wood, Evangeline Paschal, Julie Burgess) to Lebanon to participate (for the fifth year!) in a women’s conference held by the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon. With almost 80 women joining us from the Presbyterian churches in Syria, our week together left us with hope as we heard many, many stories of how the war is winding down and peace is on the horizon. But the harder reality is that most of the refugees who fled into Lebanon from Syria are not yet able to return home, largely because they have no home to which to return….and will not, into the foreseeable future. The ministries which serve these refugees continue to engage deeply and compassionately in serving these “neighbors” in Christ’s name. Our team visited with two of them and Julie Burgess reflects upon that experience below (excerpt from trip blog published July 19).
Marilyn Borst, Associate Director for Partnership Development
At the Top of the Hill: Hope
When I was anticipating knee replacement surgery, I once counted the steps: 106 of them leading up a steep hill to an old school building in Kab Elias owned by the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon in western Lebanon. Into this small country, about the size of Connecticut and with a population of only four million, Syrian refugees had been streaming (over one million now registered, 60% of those being school-aged children). Our Presbyterian family there (the Synod) discerned fairly quickly what God was calling them to do in this crisis – educate those children, many of whom had been out of school for several years because of the war or had never had the chance to even begin their schooling. This “re-purposed” school overlooking the Beqaa Valley, where a sea of white refugee tents is visible, would be joined by four others: Tripoli, Tyre, Minyara and Rayak. All five (with a sixth planned) are under the oversight of their local Presbyterian church with many of the teachers coming from those churches. More than 350 little lives are being embraced by this demonstration of Christ’s love and imparted with Christian values that are impacting their families, as well.
Just a few weeks ago, I revisited the school at Kab Elias and spent some time with Ramak Abboud, the principal. Her husband, Tony, is the pastor of the Presbyterian Church down the road in Khirbet Kanafer. Since I was here in July, Ramak has had to add two more classes as her student body has increased to 102.Read More
Who didn’t grow up singing “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world: red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”?
I am reminded of Jesus’ unswerving love for children every time I visit the Middle East. I am moved by the realities of life for Syrian children and young people, be they refugees now living in Lebanon or Syrian children and young people in our Presbyterian churches who remain in their own country, even in the midst of war. What they all have in common is a need – a thirst – for education.
Many of you, both churches and individuals, have given generously to support the five special refugee schools which serve close to 400 children.Read More