Conflict upon Conflict

To describe my feelings about the global phenomenon of displaced people as being in acute internal conflict just doesn’t seem to match my circumstances with those of others.

But I feel terribly conflicted.

Helen and I are on Long Service Leave. Our main news source has been the BBC  World News Service, just about the only English Channel we have been able to get in our travels. As the Syrian refugee migration rolls across Europe we are enjoying this wonderful Australian work entitlement on the very soil where so many desperately displaced people are trying to find refuge.

We transited through Dubai Airport. Overawed by the sheer scale of and the opulence of the airport itself, Helen quipped that this grand facility could house and feed and provide a processing hub for the refugees to resettle them in the nations of the West and the peaceful Gulf States of the East!

We are currently in Munich where many have reached and many others desperate to! We are flying to Greece where many more are attempting to get to via dangerous sea voyages.

Like many back home we saw the image of that soldier cradling the lifeless body of a small boy - the picture that did so much to turn the tide of world opinion, for a time.

If a picture paints a thousand words, that one picture painted words in their millions. There has been many a picture of suffering, dying and dead children confronting us for years. But it was this one picture that seems to have shocked and shaken the world from a compassion fatigue stupor and stun-gunned our leaders into various promises of action.

Where this promise of action will lead us is yet to be known. The promise of a further 12,000 Syrian refugees being resettled in Australia is a powerful start. Wherever this momentum takes us I hope we will do all we can to accelerate it.

But that very picture has created another layer of conflict for me. Perhaps it’s the conflict I have with photo-journalism in general. I know the world needs to be told - in words and in pictures but I am stunned by the scenes of too many cameras in a clicking frenzy when families are in such trauma. And I only see and know that because someone is taking pictures of people taking pictures.

In the last few weeks I have and Anglican Aid’s office has received many calls asking us what we are doing about this current refugee crisis.

Due to the generosity of Sydney Anglicans, and many other people of goodwill across Australia and even beyond, Anglican Aid, on your behalf has been targeting aid to Syrian for over a year. We can only attempt to double and redouble our efforts to relieve the terrible suffering of so many. And our focus is not just Syria but refugees from many other nations as well.

For example, we are currently directing aid to these five specific areas to assist Syrian refugees, displaced people within Iraq and South Sudanese refugees amassed across the Ethiopian border.

Syrian Refugees in Egypt

As Syrian refugees have been flooding into neighbouring countries anglican Aid targeted help to our established partner, the Archbishop of the Middle East, Mouneer Annis and the work of Refuge Egypt.

While Egypt has been receiving less refugees than other countries (300,000), we wanted to support those who had made dangerous journeys as far south as Cairo and were stretching the resources of our partner, operating out of the Cathedral compound.

Displaced Iraqis in Erbel

Since the plight of displaced Christians and other minority groups fleeing persecution in the north of Iraq came to our attention towards the end of 2014, we have been directing aid to families seeking shelter in refugee camps and other cities in the region.

The aid we have sent has been stewarded by two indigenous Christian partner organisations who have been serving in the region for decades.

Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

More recently we were alerted to the ministry of a Lebanese Anglican clergyman and his wife who were living and working amongst Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

He is providing pastoral care for the many traumatised refugees while his wife is running a school in their home for as many small children as they can manage. Their ministry is under the oversight of our partner, Archbishop Mouneer Annis.

As we have heard, in these vast camps in Lebanon and Jordan, the UNHCR are running short of funds just to house, feed and register the hundreds of thousands of people massing in their makeshift canvas settlements.

Syrian Refugees in Jordan

About three months ago we learnt that one of our partners in the Eastern Cape of South Africa doing work with township families with children with disabilities was preparing to send a worker to Jordan to work with Syrian refugees who have children with a disability.

Timion Ministries (Timion meaning ‘Precious Child’) is a wonderful partner that we are working with to see this ministry develop. Along with Lebanon, Jordan is host to more Syrian refugees than any other countries (well over a million each).

South Sudanese Refugees in Gambella, Ethiopia

Just this morning I received this email from our partner in Gambella as we support the refugees there and even provide help to train their pastors:

Fighting broke out last night between two rival clans. Two of our students who are sharing a room in town, represent one clan each - they received the news at the same time - the one's brothers shot and killed the others two step-brothers. There are many other casualties as well, but the pain in our classroom this morning as one man prayed for the other and each other's families has shaken us all. Weeping in this culture among men is not at all common, but there were tears shed this morning. Please pray for peace.

This has been one of the most amazing Trauma Healing sessions I have ever attended as we have had to deal with so many real life situations, not only in the past, but in the very raw present.

What is the answer to such conflict? My conflict, which barely deserves mention in the face of such global trauma?

Is it not grace upon grace in the grace and truth of the God who became Man and made his home amongst us.



Image: The Za'atri camp in Jordan, populated by Syrian refugees, in 2013. Credit: US Department of State/Public Domain.