Syrian Refugee Crisis: What Church Leaders Need to Know

by Church Resource Team on December 12, 2016

mass evacuation plan out of the once rebel-held eastern Aleppo, Syria’s second-largest city, recommenced Dec. 15. As many as 100,000 residents began fleeing the city in the cold rain Dec. 13 after the government forces declared victory and warring parties announced the end of hostilities. But fighting resumed within a day adding further confusion to the chaos. Children remain in peril as the fragile ceasefire sets in and families seek refuge outside the city.

Pro-government forces drove out rebel forces from eastern Aleppo in a months-long siege and military campaign that left thousands dead and scores more injured or displaced.

“As we go about our holiday preparations, the families and children of Aleppo are literally being massacred,” says Rich Stearns, World Vision U.S. president. “We must never lose our capacity to feel outrage when human beings are so callously slaughtered, and then we must turn that outrage into action. Pray, give, and raise your voices in support of these Syrian families.”

World Vision is preparing to serve people displaced from Aleppo. Plans include providing winter supplies like blankets and mattresses, clean water and sanitation services, food, and emergency supplies in the regions north and west of Aleppo.

We are currently helping about 100,000 people fleeing recent violence in the area. World Vision is working in Tel Abiad, A’zaz, Jarabulus, and Manbij districts within the Aleppo Governorate to:

  • Provide clean water and sanitation services
  • Support primary and mobile health clinics
  • Operate women and young child centers
  • Support the district’s women and children’s hospital with equipment and supplies

A recent survey showed that American Christians are less likely to pray for and help refugees this year than a year ago.

Syria crisis fast facts

  • 13.5 million people in Syria need humanitarian assistance.
  • 4.8 million Syrians are refugees, and 6.1 million are displaced within Syria; half of those affected are children.
  • Most Syrian refugees remain in the Middle East, in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt; slightly more than 10 percent of the refugees have fled to Europe.
  • Children affected by the Syrian conflict are at risk of becoming ill, malnourished, abused, or exploited. Millions have been forced to quit school. View these photos to see life through the eyes of Syrian refugee children.
  • Peace negotiations continue despite a fraying and piecemeal ceasefire.
Rich Stearns - The Human Face of This Crisis

"This is not a crisis of refugees. This is a crisis of children, mothers and fathers. Of broken lives and broken families. They desperately need our love, our support, and our care." Rich Stearns Here's how your church can provide the love and care they need. Host a Refugee Sunday

Posted by World Vision Churches on Thursday, November 19, 2015

MORE: Your church can respond to the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today by doing a Refugee Sunday. Find out more here.

Rahaff, 5, escaped from Syria five months ago with her mother and younger brother. Her father paid a smuggler $250 to transport them to safety hidden in a pickup truckload of sheep. “It is much better for us here, even though we have no assistance,” says Khadija, her mother. The three share a tent with Rahaff’s cousin and his family. (©2016 World Vision/photo by Jon Warren)

Children under siege in Aleppo

“The children of Syria have experienced more hardship, devastation, and violence than any child should have to in a thousand lifetimes,” says Dr. Christine Latif, World Vision’s response manager for Turkey and northern Syria.

World Vision staff say the situation in Aleppo city is the most dire they have ever seen it. Health supplies and clean water are urgently needed. Aid hasn’t reached the city since mid-July.

“Civilians have been continually in harm’s way, caught in the cross-fire and changing front lines.  Civilian infrastructure has been targeted, leading to mass civilian casualties, including women and children,” says Angela Huddleston, program manager for the World Vision’s Syria response.

Shy and fearful, Mohamed, 2, seldom ventures from his family’s tent without holding tightly to his cousin Malak’s hand. Both his parents died in Syria. For the past five months, he’s lived with 13 aunts, uncles, and cousins in a homemade tent in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. (©2016 World Vision/photo by Jon Warren)

World Vision’s work in Syria

  • Food assistance
  • Primary healthcare in health facilities and mobile clinics
  • Medical and nutritional aid for women and children
  • Baby care kits for displaced families
  • Water and sanitation services
  • Child protection outreach to communities
  • Psychosocial care and play for children

Pray with us for Syrian refugees: God, You love the little children. Each Syrian child is precious to You. Please protect children in the middle of this conflict. We ask You to bring peace to Syria for the sake of Your children. In Your name, Amen.

Why are Syrians leaving their homes?

  • Violence: Since the Syrian civil war began in 2011, as many as 386,000 people have been killed, including nearly 14,000 children, says the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The war has become more deadly since foreign powers joined the conflict.
  • Collapsed infrastructure: Within Syria, 95 percent of people lack adequate healthcare, 70 percent lack regular access to clean water. Half the children are out of school. The economy is shattered and four-fifths of the population lives in poverty.
  • Children in danger and distress: Syrian children — the nation’s hope for a better future — have lost loved ones, suffered injuries, missed years of schooling, and witnessed unspeakable violence and brutality. Warring parties forcibly recruit children to serve as fighters, human shields, and in support roles, according to the U.S. State Department.

Most refugees from Syria are still in the region. They’ve fled violence and sought refuge in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt. Around 10 percent are taking the dangerous journey to Europe. (©2016 World Vision)

How does the war in Syria affect children?

Read about how the war is affecting Syria’s children in a special report from World Visionmagazine, “Syria Crisis and the Scars of War.”

  • Children are susceptible to malnutrition and diseases brought on by poor sanitation, including diarrheal diseases like cholera. Cold weather increases the risk of pneumonia and other respiratory infections.
  • Many refugee children have to work to support their families. Often they labor in dangerous or demeaning circumstances for little pay.
  • Children are more vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation in unfamiliar and overcrowded conditions. Without adequate income to support their families and fearful of their daughters being molested, parents — especially single mothers — may opt to arrange marriage for girls, some as young as 13.
  • Between 2 million and 3 million Syrian children are not attending school. The U.N. children’s agency says the war reversed 10 years of progress in education for Syrian children.


What are the refugees’ greatest needs?

  • Syrians fleeing conflict need all the basics to sustain their lives: food, clothing, health assistance, shelter, and household and hygiene items.
  • They need reliable supplies of clean water, as well as sanitation facilities.
  • Children need a safe environment and a chance to play and go to school.
  • Adults need employment options in case of long-term displacement.
  • Prayer: Learn how you can pray for Syrian refugees. Join with others as we #PrayForRefugees.
  • Compassion: Read this article in Christianity Today by World Vision President Rich Stearns about treating refugees with the compassion of Christ.

Teacher Wafaa Anjarani, a Syrian refugee, plays follow the leader with her class of 5- and 6-year-olds. To prepare for starting school in Lebanon, tudents learn English, math, Arabic, and science taught with a lot of songs and activities. In a half-day session, there’s also time for play and a meal. (©2016 World Vision/photo by Jon Warren)

How is World Vision helping refugees and others affected by the crisis?

Since the Syria crisis began in 2011, World Vision has helped more than 2 million people in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq. Learn more about how World Vision responds to emergencies with short-term relief and long-term recovery.

  • Syria: Food aid, health assistance, hygiene support, baby care kits, water and sanitation, shelter repair kits, and winterization supplies.
  • Iraq: Food aid, health services, water and sanitation, baby kits, stoves and other winter supplies; for children: education and recreation, programming for life skills, peace building, and resilience.
  • Jordan and Lebanon: Personal and household supplies, clean water and sanitation, education and recreation, Child-Friendly Spaces and child protection training for adults, winter kits, and psychosocial support for children.

Your church can respond to the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today by hosting a Refugee Sunday.

Help Syrian Children Refugees /pastor-resources/small-groups/m25-group-guide.html
Help Syrian Children Refugees