Lebanon (MNN) — Fighting keeps raging in northeast Lebanon.
Thousands of Lebanese civilians and Syrian refugees fled Monday as Lebanese artillery pounded a border town that had been overrun by militants from neighboring Syria.
Lebanon is surrounded by Syria, Jordan and Israel, and Iraq on the other side of Syria. That means Lebanon faces instability, refugees, and economic woes on at least two borders. The fear of getting dragged into a proxy war in Syria seems to becoming a reality.
Jed Hamoud, Vice President of Operations with Kids Alive International, explains the effort to destabilize Lebanon this way: “They can start pulling in different factions from Syria and other groups that are coming to Syria from different Arab nations, be it Libya, be it Algeria, be it Egypt that are coming to fight the war that’s going on today between the different Muslim factions.”
Both the Hezbollah and Syrian regime are fighting multiple militias made up of the Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The Syrian government, which is battling a largely Sunni insurgency, also has the support of Lebanon’s premier Shiite militia, Hezbollah.
Intense fighting over the last week compounds fears that Lebanon is the new front in its neighbor’s conflict, now in its third year. The latest conflict is over Arsal, a predominantly-Sunni town surrounded by Shiite villages.
Tens of thousands of refugees have flocked across the border into Lebanon from Syria in the last two years. Hamoud describes the tensions their team faces because of the Sunni vs. Shiite conflict in Lebanon. “You have struggles all around you, and some of those struggles are even close to home. You’ll hear a lot on the news about suicide bombings in one part of town or the other.”
On a daily basis, the sounds of war can be heard. “When those things happen, they put stress on the staff, stress on the kids. You know, ‘Are you going to be able to go shopping today or not? What’s going to be the climate downtown? Are the markets going to be closed?’ ”
As far as security goes, he described the kinds of security at the U.S. Embassy. Then, he listed embassies that have been attacked in the last few years. “If the U.S. Embassies cannot really secure their borders and boundaries and facilities, it’s very tough for US to do it.” He goes on to say, “Somehow, because we get associated with a foreign organization, we become a target for somebody. How do you protect yourself from that? Really, the only way you can do it is rely on the Lord.” That’s not to say they are lax about it. It’s just that security isn’t their primary issue.
The number of refugees is increasing monthly, and the suffering continues to grow. As well as a growing number of Syrians, there are also many Palestinian refugees in the country, along with other displaced people from Sudan, Iraq, and other places.
Kids Alive International is trying to address the needs through the programs they have in place in Lebanon, but the staff is overwhelmed. Kids Alive provides care through its two Children’s Homes, School, and Care Center programs, notes Hamoud. “It’s easy to lose hope and very hard to hold on that things will be okay, or that the Lord will take care of it. But we have seen that the Lord has taken care of our ministry in Lebanon, over many, many years.”
However, in the darkest moments, the staff recounts how the ministry survived the regular bombings during 15 years of Civil War (1975-1990). Although bombs damaged property and destroyed vehicles, Kids Alive didn’t lose anyone. Hamoud says the staff regularly reminds the kids of God’s faithfulness in answering prayer and protecting them during that period. “Even now, they repeat those events and those incidents, so they kind of hold onto how the Lord protected them in the past; and they have assurance that the Lord will protect them in the future.”
Their history with God emboldens hope for the future. One of their goals is to develop their work with refugees and other vulnerable children over the coming year. Their investment could reap a harvest of peace. “What you can pray for is that the Word that the children are hearing almost every single day will be instilled in their hearts and their mind, and it’ll be effective in their life.”