Over the last seven years, the world has witnessed one of the worst humanitarian emergencies in decades. Since 2011, the war in Syria has killed over 400,000 people and displaced 11 million. Of that 11 million, over ten thousand have been relocated to the USA, and just over 1,300 of those have made resettled in San Diego. This demands our response. Proverbs 3:27 in the ESV says “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.” This is why we are focussing on the Syrian refugee for the month of April, to bring awareness of the crisis, and provide ways that you and I can act on behalf of our neighbors.
In July of 2016, a few of our friends in San Diego hosted a Welcome to San Diego party for Syrian refugees who had recently come to the city. There were approximately 100 Syrians at the picnic, along with 90 volunteers. There was no agenda, there was no order of service, there were no speeches or teachings, just a good old fashioned BBQ at the beach. We cooked over 70lbs of chicken and beef, had tables full of salad and coolers filled with water, juice and soda.
We hung a huge sign that said “Welcome to San Diego” and spent five hours getting to know our new neighbors. It was such a beautiful time; and the first time I (Phil Cunningham) had met a Syrian family. Before that day, the only time I had seen a Syrian was in the news. Pictures of grief, death, and destruction covered the Internet and my newsfeed. Images of the horror the Syrian people were facing were everywhere I looked. Then, on a beautiful afternoon in July, a bunch of us got to spend time eating a meal with these people on a beach in San Diego. One Syrian said ,“This is the best day of my life.” Another said, “we feel so welcomed into San Diego as a result of this day.” This is what I believe Jesus meant when he said “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).
Over the next month, Steps of Justice, Bridge Builders Network and a few other organizations ran hope camps for our new neighbors. Three Saturdays a month we meet at a local park with approx. 40 kids aged 6-14. We played games, had small group time and read stories and passages from the Bible. Our goal was to show the love of Jesus to these kids and families by being present in their lives. Once a month, during that time we hosted a meal for all the families.
In December of 2016 we had a Christmas party for our Syrian neighbors. There were over 100 Syrians there, as well as over 100 volunteers. Then, just this past fall, 2017, we had another picnic with over 400 people celebrating the relationship between Syrians and Americans. It is so great to be a part of something that looks so much like Jesus.
We would like to have you get involved. We welcome you to journey with us over the next thirty day as we share stories, news updates, and prayer requests for Syria and the Syrian people. We will also be challenged to act on behalf of our Syrian neighbors, through giving of time, money and resources. We look forward to seeing how God moves on behalf of our Syrian friends.
To Journey with, follow along during the month of April at Friends of Syria.