It’s more serious than you could imagine.
Syria is in a civil war.
In 2011, Syria’s conflict began as peaceful protests against the government. It turned into a violent rebellion (Gilsinan, 2015, October 29).
Young boys are being recruited.
“Extremist Islamist groups including the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) have specifically recruited (Syrian) children through free schooling campaigns that include weapons training, and have given them dangerous tasks, including suicide bombing missions” (Human Rights Watch, 2014).
3. Young girls are sex-trafficked.
Syrian girls are tricked into going to Lebanon with job offerings and promises of engagement. When they arrive they are forced into prostitution, often raped and beaten until they comply (AFP, 2016, April 18).
They did not choose to become refugees.
Definition of refugee – “someone who has been forced to leave a country because of war or for religious or political reasons” (Merriam-Webster).
“So it begins. You take a step. You exit one life and enter another. You walk through a cut border fence into statelessness, vulnerability, dependency, and invisibility. You become a refugee” (Salopek, 2015, March).
5. Many refugees suffer psychological ailments.
Approximately half of Syrian refugees are children under the age of 18, about 40 percent are under age 12. “Almost half displayed symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—ten times the prevalence among children around the world” (Sirin & Rogers-Sirin, 2015, October). According to Weissbecker and Leichner, 54 percent of Syrian refugees overall exhibit mental health issues (2015, September 22).
“Experiences that have brought on these effects include witnessing or experiencing a threat to life or limb, severe physical harm and/or injury, torture, exposure to the grotesque, violent and/or sudden loss of a loved one, the causing of death and/or severe harm to another, forced disappearance, threat of abduction, extortion, and forced separation from family” (Lusk, McCallister & Villalobos, 2013, pg. 4).
They have been exposed to unspeakable violence.
“The United Nations determined both sides of the conflict have committed war crimes, including murder, torture, chemical warfare and rape” (Silva, 2015).
Many have suffered the loss of a loved one.
There have been 470,000 Syrians killed in their civil war. This number is up from 250,000 a year and a half ago (Barnard, 2016, February 11).
Many have been lost at sea.
In 2014-2015 more than 7,000 refugees lost their lives in an attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea (Safdar, 2016, January 29).
5 things you can do to help
- Show compassion. Becoming a refugee is not a choice. Show compassion to the people who have been forced into this unfortunate situation.
- Educate yourself. Do not base your knowledge on the things other people tell you. Often they speak from fear or discontent. Make sure that the information you get is coming from a reliable source.
- Donate goods. Most refugees leave everything behind. They take their children by the hand and run. They often have no material things. Donate items, such as clothing, toiletries, blankets, or money to a reputable charity or organization (Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, American Refugee Committee, International Rescue Committee, Catholic Relief Services, US Fund for UNICEF)
- Sponsor a family. If your state is resettling Syrian refugees, consider sponsoring a family by renting an apartment for them for a few months, making sure they have enough food, or even bringing them into your own home. Be hospitable.
- Write your legislator. Write or call your legislator. Let them know that we need to do more for refugees.
As Americans, we no longer understand what it is like to live in a country of civil unrest. Most of us have not lived in a war-torn country. Many of us did not personally witness so much as the civil rights movement of the 1950’s – 60’s. The worst most of us have been through were the terrorist attacks of 9/11. We don’t understand the psychological effects of war, or the desperation of the innocent people who live in war-torn countries. We need to have compassion for these people. They are as innocent as you and I.