Have mercy upon us, O Lord! Have mercy upon us! For we have had more than enough of contempt. (Ps. 123:3)
Over two years ago, their house in Aleppo, Syria was completely destroyed. The family of six lived in another village for four months, and then they walked six days to the Jordan border, sometimes needing to dodge sniper bullets. They finally made it across the border into Jordan to a refugee camp with not a single possession but the clothes they wore. They feel alone in their new country and they want to go home to Syria.
A second family fled Qaraqosh, Iraq about the same time. They lived in Erbil for two months, and while they weren’t able to get any help with food or shelter, they were able to arrange to
These two families from Syria and Iraq, and thousands more like them, are part of the reason the population of Jordan has doubled to more than nine million people in the last 15 years. More than one-third of the population of the entire country is refugees, including 1.5 million Palestinians, almost as many Syrians, a much smaller number of Iraqis and refugees and guest workers from a number of other countries as well.
The high number of refugees entering the country has put tremendous stress on the infrastructure of Jordan, including its schools and hospitals. With the economy suffering because of the number of new people, some Jordanians also need financial assistance.
MCC partner Caritas Jordan is one organization that is trying to help. Last year, it registered more than 90,000 refugee families with almost 500,000 family members for health, humanitarian, housing and education assistance. MCC projects with Caritas include winterization projects, HIV/AIDS education and material resources.
The Syrian family from Aleppo received a voucher from MCC which they used to buy a gas heater for their apartment. The grandmother told us they had no heat at all before and it had been so cold. She also told us that the carpet we were sitting on in their very comfortable living space had been pulled out of the garbage and scrubbed clean.
The family from Iraq received a kerosene heater and blankets from MCC. Before moving to their upper floor apartment, they lived in a church compound. In Iraq, they had been part of the Syrian Orthodox community.
Caritas Jordan director Wael Suleman told me that they are doing their best to serve people in need, but it would be much cheaper for everyone if all of us, especially our governments, talked about peace instead. He said that we should start where Jesus started by serving the poor.
In the United States, MCC’s efforts in response to the war in Syria have included advocating for increased humanitarian assistance and for stopping the shipment of weapons to all parties in the region.
Meanwhile, the Iraqi and Syrian families are waiting. We pray for mercy, Lord, for these refugee families and for so many more like them who have endured so much because of war in this region of the world.
Ron Byler is executive director for MCC U.S. He is in the Middle East and Eastern Europe visiting MCC partners and projects for two months.