'Devastating Milestone' Reached amid Syrian Refugee Crisis, by Eden Nelson, at Baptist Press
"As Lebanon registered its 1 millionth Syrian refugee in early April, the United Nations labeled it a "devastating milestone."
"Four years after opening its borders to Syrians fleeing war, Lebanon struggles to hold the weight of the new population that calls it home. The small nation alone holds nearly half the 2.5 million registered refugees who have fled from Syria to five neighboring countries -- Lebanon, Turkey, Cyprus, Jordan and Iraq.
"And 2,500 new names are being added to the total in Lebanon each day, but that does not touch the total of people affected by the war. The UN estimates that a total of 9 million refugees -- documented and undocumented -- have fled Syria, with 6.5 million displaced within the war-torn country.
"'The key word is 'registered,' meaning registered with UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees)," Rick Gladson*, a Christian worker serving among Syrians in Lebanon, said. "I think everyone in the country would tell you there are many more than 1 million Syrian refugees here.
"'It's likely that every fourth person in Lebanon is Syrian," he said. "I think people are starting to recognize that there is no 'reset' button for the Syrian crises. If the war miraculously ended tomorrow, the likelihood that the millions of displaced Syrians would just return home is slim to nil. In many ways, this conflict has permanently altered the shape of the region."
"Describing what a country roughly the size of Connecticut is like with such a high number of refugees, Gladson explained that every major intersection has a few Syrian beggars moving from car to car "with an outstretched hand" hoping to sell an item or receive help.
"Don Alan, a Christian worker living in the region, said in Lebanon, Syrian refugees live everywhere and anywhere -- in places that people in the West would condemn and places "that you would never imagine anyone living" -- and not just one or two but dozens.
"In the midst of that, relief agencies struggle to keep up with the vast need. The UN's World Food Programme has cut its food aid to Syrians by a fifth because of lack of funds, according to BBC News.
"As refugee agencies and non-governmental organizations work to determine how to meet the devastating need of Syrians in Lebanon, Christian workers are also determining new strategies with hopes of reaching hurting people. They are partnering with local congregations to provide humanitarian relief, making visits to families to distribute aid, hearing their stories and sharing the Gospel with them.
"'They want to be heard, they want their story told and they need the help that is being offered them," Alan said. "So many of them don't know the deeper need they have for a Savior but it shows on their faces as they deal with the hardships that life has put before them.'"