As the conflict in Syria continues to worsen some Syrians are beginning to cross the border into neighboring countries like Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan. These countries are continuing their practice of keeping open borders for incoming refugees, even as this number moves towards 140,000. Yet a major question that comes with accepting refugees is how to make sure the refugees’ needs are met in ways that do not overtax the local population and continue to respect the dignity of all.
As Syria’s southern neighbor, Jordan is currently addressing this question as it plays host to about 150,000 Syrians (39,600 of which are registered with the UN as refugees). To meet the needs of these refugees, Jordan has established Za’atari refugee camp. This camp aims to be a positive sign in the midst of the current conflict.
The ELCA is blessed to have an opportunity to be involved in this important work. Early on in this process, the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) through its member church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL), offered its services. In the midst of a conflict that has caused some to draw lines of distinction between religious groups, Jordan (where the official religion is Islam and the population is primarily Sunni) has chosen to work closely with Christian organizations, including the LWF, to deliver aid to incoming refugees from a primarily Muslim country.
The reason for this is simple: relationship. Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan, who serves as Bishop of the ELCJHL and President of the LWF, has strong relationships with Jordanian leaders. As these officials began looking into how to address the needs of incoming refugees, they welcomed input from Bishop Younan. As a leader within our global communion, Bishop Younan offered areas of expertise within the LWF to ensure that those gifts benefitted both the Syrian refugees and their host government.
Working together, the needs of vulnerable people who have no other access to daily bread are being met in ways that neither the LWF nor the Jordanian government could do alone. This effort is a strong expression of the ELCA’s commitment to global accompaniment. It is what we in the church are called to do and to be, to be present in relationship where we gain the opportunity to truly be neighbor at home and across the globe.
For more on the situation and to hear from Bishop Younan, see the ELCA News Release.
To learn more about the ELCA’s response, see the ELCA Disaster Response page Syria Conflict.
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