New entry rules take effect in Lebanon

(Oasis photo courtesy Kids Alive Lebanon)

(Oasis photo courtesy Kids Alive Lebanon)

Lebanon (MNN) — Lebanon has had enough.

Starting Monday, the Lebanese government began imposing visa restrictions on Syrian refugees. Matt Parker with Kids Alive International explains. “Due to the concerns over the number of refugees (more than a million refugees have come from Syria into Lebanon), and the impact that is having on the Lebanese economy and the education system, the Lebanese government has decided to create these restrictions.”

The visa restrictions are the first in the history between Syria and Lebanon, which previously shared open borders, Parker adds. “Lebanon is estimating that it has cost them around $20 billion dollars because of the number of refugees that have come into the country. It really has got to the point where they feel they really have no alternative.”

Controversy has followed the move because it has created more questions than answers. “Refugees that still need to escape from Syria: where do they go? Lebanon is saying that they will issue visas for a period of time if people can prove that they have employment in Lebanon. They can talk about the length of stay that they want to be in Lebanon, but of course, for many refugees, that’s not a possibility.”

(Photo courtesy Kids Alive International)

(Photo courtesy Kids Alive International)

For those who are already in Lebanon, life is still a struggle for existence. There are few jobs to be had. Refugees rent tent space in Bekka Valley. Children are out of school. For them, opportunity is lost without an education. Kids Alive Lebanon opened The Oasis a couple of months ago to respond to that need. Why call it The Oasis? “It’s providing a safe, caring, loving place where we can meet their educational needs, meet their physical needs, and also meet their spiritual needs, provide them with spiritual teaching and care and news of the love that God has for them.”

Within weeks, the school program swelled from 60 Syrian students to almost 100. Parker goes on to say, “Some of the kids that we started working with–Syrian refugees that we’ve taken into our program, some of them have never been to school before. They’ve been out of the education system for several years. There are no possibilities for them unless we can step in and help.”

(Photo courtesy Kids Alive International)

(Photo courtesy Kids Alive International)

The key goals of The Oasis, adds Parker, are three-fold. First, to meet educational needs. Then, emotional needs. And, “Kids Alive wants to meet these kids’ spiritual needs and share the Good News of the Gospel, share with them that they have a heavenly Father who loves them.” In fact, Parker says, “One of the nice things in recent weeks has been for our staff to be able to share the Christmas story with these kids. For many of these kids, it was really the first time they have really heard and understood the Christmas story.”

The trauma these kids have lived through has scarred them for life. However, healing begins in The Oasis. “Pray for these kids that we’re taking in. Many of them have suffered terribly. Pray that in our program, they really would know security.”

Did you know that it takes just $3.23 a day to keep one of these kids in the program for a month? Click here for details on Kids Alive Lebanon.