Roseangela Jarjour talks daily with pastors in Syria working for peace and providing a reason for Syrians who stay to hope, even as they hear bombs drop around them.
“The priority is really to bring peace into our country, so we keep our people in our country,” Jarjour said during a Mennonite Central Committee video press conference Sept. 17.
She is a Syrian who works for an MCC partner, the Fellowship of Middle East Evangelical Churches in Lebanon. Four years of war in Syria have forced its citizens into poverty, both near their homes and when they move to safer towns in Syria or neighboring countries.
“We are looking toward the big nations to be able to use their might . . . to bring peace to our country,” she said.
But she sees it as a healthy sign that she hears Syrian churches saying, “We do not want you to help us outside as much as we want to keep our people inside.”
Jarjour acknowledged the flood of refugees must be addressed but said: “We are all looking for the West to use its power to stop the war and to stop the bringing of weapons. The price to buy weapons and use them in Syria [is] much, much higher than supporting all the refugees and the internally displaced groups.”
Rashid El Mansi, program manager at Popular Aid for Relief and Development, an MCC partner in Lebanon, said Syrians “have the right to find a settlement in a third country, but still we have to think of the bigger picture.”
He said there are about 2 million refugees where he works in Lebanon, more than 2 million in Jordan, and 7 or 8 million displaced within Syria.
The tens or hundreds of thousands of refugees the U.S. and Europe are talking about taking in will only be about 5 percent of that, he said.
“We still have 95 percent of the people in high need for assistance in neighboring countries and in Syria,” El Mansi said. “I want from here to say, ‘Please continue to support the refugees who are still in high need.’ ”
He said they have seen a significant reduction of services and aid over the last two years.
“Now everybody is focusing on getting a few thousand [refugees] to each country, and then the biggest portion, like more than 90 percent of refugees, are still in neighboring countries.”
Naomi Enns, an MCC representative for Lebanon and Syria said one day the war will end, and when it does they will need people around.
“The cost of one refugee family, helping them really prosper and live in another country, is much, much higher than what would be helping thousands of families here to rebuild their country,” she said.
Even in Lebanon, where Jarjour and El Mansi work, quality of life isn’t good, and refugees aren’t always welcomed.
For refugees in Lebanon, Enns said, “MCC donors have helped them feel they are treated with dignity and respect and help to provide for needs while they wait to return home.”
She said the goal in the region she and her husband, Doug Enns, represent — Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Iraq — is “to give them a choice to stay rather than to feel pressured to leave, risking their lives over sea or over land. . . .
“I think everyone needs to pitch in so refugees can eat, kids can go to school and families can maintain hope for the future. I truly believe MCC donors have been a window of hope for many families here, but it’s a small window, and we need it to open wider.”
See also: “MCC aid gives Syrians reason to stay“