Inwards. Outwards. Upwards.

Peacemakers Caring for Syrian Refugees in Lebanon


In 2018, I was sitting next to the bus driver waiting in front of the house of one of our students. A Lebanese man came up to me asking: “Are you a school?” I said: “Yes, we are a church centre for refugees.” His eyes popped out and he seemed annoyed: “What? Why do you teach them and help them? People like you are keeping them in Lebanon. They are thieves and criminals.”

We started the centre in 2014 in Keserwan area, which is a Maronite (Eastern Catholic) dominant area. Our church was visiting homes of refugees with food relief packages; we were surprised to find many children aged seven and above unschooled and that is when we decided it was time to act. However, since the influx of Syrian refugees, our province witnessed a change in demography, caused mainly by Muslim Syrian refugees renting houses in this area. Lebanese and Syrians are very close culturally: they are geographical neighbours, they share the same language (but different dialects), same food, common families, intermarriages, and much more. But to understand this man’s reaction, let us go back in history to see how this brotherhood transformed.

History, 1990-2005

Starting in 1975 Lebanon went through 15 years of civil war, during which even Christians killed each other, and Syria was involved in Lebanon by Arab support. In 1989, parties came to an agreement to disarm militias, and Lebanese allies of Syria agreed to let Syria help Lebanon for two years through this transition; some Christians were against the decision, but their opposition was silenced by force. In 1990, Syria had 30,000 troops and intelligence in Lebanon, so it had dominance over Lebanese affairs and economy. Syria’s role of protecting Lebanon lasted 15 years until 2005, when people revolted and ended what they called the “Syrian Occupation” (New York Times, 2005), since they abused their power in collaboration with corrupt Lebanese politicians: crimes, assassinations, and much more. Many Lebanese families lost their sons or daughters in Syrian prisons; many were raped or killed or oppressed. There is so much to forget, so much to forgive. However, the two nations were always good at differentiating between the government and the people, to some extent.

Studies, 2011-present

After 15 years of Lebanese brothers killing each other, then 15 years of the neighbouring brother’s (Syria) abuse, this unhealed nation is faced with a great test: since 2011, there was an influx of over two million refugees to Lebanon, adding up to our population of four million. The first expected response is fear! But the government and the people welcomed Syrian refugees among them while many others, including Christians (Evangelical and non-Evangelical) were at war within themselves, a battle to forgive and love. In 2017, 50% of Syrians in Mount Lebanon and 76% of Syrians in Beirut reported that they don’t feel welcome in Lebanon. Regarding services, 28% said they have no access and 27% said that they have access “sometimes”. Furthermore, 37% reported that when accessing services, they are treated worse than others. (UNHCR, USJ, 2017)

Testimonies: Making Peace with ourselves, with others, with God

Now the children of God are being given the opportunity to be like the Good Samaritan; it is God’s way to help us discover:

1) the depth of our hurt that resulted in prejudice against Syrian refugees (even as followers of Christ) so He can make peace in our hearts,

2) the image of God in refugees so we can forgive and make peace with them

3) the depth of God’s love for them, so we can be ambassadors of peace and help lead them to reconcile with Him!

Yes, many churches were cautious at the beginning, but soon enough almost every church rose up to welcome the stranger, feed the hungry, preach the gospel to the lost, and even open education centres to children who have lost safety and the right to go to school. Our centre is one of many started by Evangelical churches across Lebanon! One student once said, “Here you treat us with dignity, unlike public schools where they yell at us!” Another mother said, “I will keep sending [my children] to your centre; here I know they are safe and that is what matters the most to me.” This demonstration of extraordinary love has led many children and their families to Christ and we have witnessed it ourselves. According to Religion Watch, in 2016 alone, Lebanon saw hundreds of its Muslim refugees baptized. One pastor in the Bekaa Valley (North East Lebanon) said, “I prayed against the Syrians for God to take our revenge to destroy their land as they did to our land.” He continued, “Yet now…our hearts are aching for their pain. We are constantly praying for their country. Our church is working day and night to help them, to heal their wounds, to wipe their tears, and to feed their children,” (Sage journals, 2020).

The same student that the bus was waiting for in 2018 was asked last week (June 2022), “What is your prayer request?” He replied, “I want Jesus to live in my heart, to be my friend, and [to be] close to me in desperate times.”


"As a church, you can't build walls around you.
You have to reach out to the community."

                                                                                                  — Church pastor (World Vision, 2019)