Understanding the Syria Crisis and the Role of the Church

by Rich Stearns, President of on March 21, 2016

The following is an excerpt from Rich Stearns' new ebook Understanding the Syria Crisis and the Role of the Church. 

The war in Syria was in its second year when I first traveled to a refugee camp in Jordan and met with children affected by the crisis. Until I saw it for myself, I couldn’t have understood the vast scale of this disaster unfolding on the other side of the globe. The conflict has now killed nearly a quarter of a million people and displaced roughly 12 million, and it may spell the end of historic Christianity and other minority religions across huge sections of the Middle East.
 
As the plane descended toward Amman, Jordan, I wondered whether anything could really make a difference. I’ve seen up close the intricacies of Middle Eastern politics. Could a political solution to this crisis be found? I was doubtful. In the meantime, would any effort to assist refugees be more than a band-aid on a gaping wound?
 
And even if we could make a difference, would anybody want to help? Americans seemed to have similar questions: World Vision’s efforts to assist refugees had so far garnered only a little support. Indeed, World Vision U.S. raised barely $700,000 in each of the frst four years of the Syria conflict. This stands in sharp contrast to the compassion Americans have displayed during other crises, such as natural disasters. For example, we saw $8 million in donations in just the first week after the April 2015 earthquake in Nepal.

Syria poses serious challenges to our willingness to get involved. There is a religious dimension in which one faith is set against another. And this is a man-made disaster, in which there are few “good guys” and instead a bewildering array of rebel groups, dictators, and terrorists.
 
Because the scope of the crisis is mind-numbing, we often focus on the details of the diplomatic intrigue and lose the perspective of the individuals—12 million mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons—whose lives have been torn apart. The heartbreaking stories of these innocent victims are only rarely told in the media.
 
As the plane landed, I was weighed down by questions about the complexity of the situation, shaped by the news and statistics I’d absorbed. I would have very different questions, and a very different burden, after meeting a 10-year-old girl named Haya. Coming face to face with her brought the situation into sharp focus. Now I was faced with a person—someone created and loved by God, who had suffered terribly—as well as questions about what my response should be to her need.
 
What would I do for boys and girls like Haya? And more importantly, does the church have a role to play?
 
This short new ebook by Rich Stearns, World Vision U.S. president, explores questions of how we, especially the Church, can be more than a band-aid on a gaping wound in the Middle East.  


 
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