World Refugee Day: Sabbath June 18Visit the ADRA World Refugee Website for other resources
Story from: Chris LeBrun, Carla Starr, and Silvia Ochoa, ADRA International
Photo credit: Julia Symes/ADRA MENA
When the Bombs Fell
It’s been three years, but Loubana’s children still have nightmares about the day their Syrian home was bombed. “I remember when I hid under the stairs when the bombs were falling,” says Nour, who was only 6 at the time. Loubana and her family had a good life in Syria. Her husband, Hasan, owned a thriving business, and they had a beautiful home full of happy, healthy children. Then the terror began.
When the bomb hit their house, the family was lucky to crawl out of the rubble alive. Hasan went back into what was left of their home to rescue their napping baby, then they ran for their lives with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Loubana and Hasan haven’t been back to Syria since they fled to Lebanon. Not even when Loubana’s brother and Hasan’s mother passed. “I would love to return to Syria, but for what? For ISIS or the government to take our children for their army?” says Hasan.
Life in Lebanon has been a struggle for the family. The children haven’t been to school in the three years since they left Syria, and they can barely afford to pay rent and buy food for their large family. The 10 of them live in a tiny two-room apartment that’s covered in mold from a leaky ceiling. Hasan’s health is ailing and they cannot afford the care or medications he needs. ADRA was able to provide jackets, blankets, and other winter essentials for Loubana’s family. And soon, the children will be able to attend an ADRA learning center.
Loubana and Hasan dream of a better life for his children—and they have dreams, too. Mariam and Nour want to be teachers. Fatima wants to be a pharmacist. Abdullah hopes to be a cardiologist so he can help people when they’re sick—like his dad. And little Sliman just wants to go to school again.
Story from: Maja Ahac, ADRA Slovenia
Photo credit: Milan Vidakovič
NOTE: This story was written for Adventist World magazine. We can use it in our own materials, but please do not offer it to other publications.
It all started as a normal Sabbath—I went to church with my family, and we had lunch with friends. Then I received a phone call: “Get prepared. There are several thousand refugees approaching the Slovenian border.” There was never a question as to whether we would help. A few hours later, we welcomed the first refugees into our country. They looked so tired. Many carried small plastic bags containing all of their possessions. I sat down together with a teenager who spoke English and asked why he was facing this difficult journey. “I had two options: to kill or be killed,” he said. “I just want to finish school and live.”
It would be easy to pretend that the refugees are not here, that they are not “worthy” of our help. They are often labeled not only as refugees or migrants, but also as terrorists. During my months of working with refugees, I have not encountered even one for whom Jesus didn’t die—no matter how dirty, scared, cold, hungry, smelly, mocked, sick, small, or badly treated they were.
We found pure joy in seeing a child smile, a baby dressed in a warm jacket, a father sharing food with his little ones, a woman discreetly being given products for personal female needs. Their gratitude was beyond words. The mocking and threatening we received were beyond words as well. Some people did not approve of ADRA’s or my own personal efforts. I was called many names. Ugly names. I received threats as well. Out of the negativity was born a determination to help even more.
The refugee crisis has shaken me and the society in which I live. We will never be the same again. I have traveled to many places and witnessed extreme poverty before, but the inequality and obvious social injustice were never so intense. This experience changed me. Was I traumatized? I hope not. Blessed? Definitely. Sometimes I would feel sad, even hurt. Seeing those who would not speak up for the vulnerable or unwilling to help them was painful. Meeting so many inspired individuals, however, made me feel rich and special.
Refugees are not so very different from us. We all want the same things: To survive. To live in peace. To simply be accepted. As humans. Nothing more; nothing less.
Story from: ADRA Serbia
*Please note that the boy in this photo is not Said, but one that ADRA I has used for him elsewhere. No photo of him is available
Photo credit: ADRA Serbia
I Do Not Want to Remember
Said is only 14, but has experienced hardships that no child should face. In Serbia, he shared his family’s story: "Mom and dad told us that we are going to Europe. We did not took anything with us, except of one spare clothe for each of us. They did not tell us how will we travel and for how long. I did not took any toy. I remember the strong hug of my grandmother who said that will pray for us every day. I don't know for how long we were traveling. I think it was very long trip. We traveled by trucks. We couldn't breathe. People cried. Truck driver yelled at us. My mom tried to put us to sleep so we wouldn't see and remember a bad things happening around us.
I do not want to remember a lot of the scenes I saw. We talk sometimes about past - our house, grandmother and nice memories we took with us. The war and traveling we have left behind us. We shouldn't talk about that. I like to go to school and play in the park. It isn't fair if someone is left to be illiterate. I feel sorry for my mother who doesn't know to write her name. She can't read a newspaper. She never went to school. I will be a doctor. I will help sick children. When they are sad, I will ask them why they are sad. Nobody asked me why I am crying, why I am sad.
Children shouldn't be victims. Children shouldn't watch how people drown as they couldn't get in the boat. They shouldn't walk for days, not being showered. They shouldn't be hungry and wear just one pair of shoes and one garment all time. I dream of my house where I can sleep in my bed and attend school. "
Beyond the Crisis: Global Refugee Facts
Refugees and Human Rights
- A refugee is a person who has fled armed conflict or persecution and who subsequently has the right to seek protection in another country under international law. An asylum-seeker is someone who says they are a refugee, but whose claim has not yet been definitively evaluated.
- During mass movements of asylum seekers, like what we're seeing now in Europe, it is generally evident why they have fled, and therefore such groups are often declared "prima facie" refugees. (UNHCR)
- Internally displaced persons (IDPs) are people who have been forced to flee their homes, but who have not crossed any international borders to seek safety.
- Seeking asylum in other countries is a human right recognized by Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Countries that have ratified the 1951 Refugee Convention are obligated to protect refugees in their territory.
- 142 countries have signed on to the 1951 Refugee Convention and 1967 Protocol. Parties to the Convention have a duty to provide protection to refugees in their territory, and are bound not to return any refugee to a country where their life or freedom would be threatened. (UNHCR)
- Refugees and asylum seekers have numerous rights, including the right to: not get sent back to their home country; not be punished for illegally entering countries that are party to the Convention and Protocol; housing; work; access to education; access to public assistance; access to courts; get identification and travel documents. (CNN)
- Around the world, more than 40,000 people are forced to flee their homes every single day. (UNHCR)
- In total, almost 60 million people in the world are refugees or internally displaced persons (IDPs). (UNHCR)
- 50% of the world’s refugees are under 18 years old.
- More than 50% of the world’s refugees are from 3 countries – Syria, Afghanistan & Somalia. (UNHCR)
- 86% of refugees are hosted by developing countries. (One.org)
- The average time out of country for a refugee is now well over a decade. (PM Gordon Brown Jan2016)
- Last year alone, more than 5,000 men, women, and even unaccompanied children lost their lives during their search for safety and a better life. (UNHCR)
- More than 1 million refugees crossed into Europe in 2015—most from Syria, but thousands also from Afghanistan, Iraq, and other conflict-affected countries. (BBC)
- 3,770 people died crossing the Mediterranean in 2015.
- Already in 2016, another 179, 552 refugees and migrants have reached Europe by sea, with at least 761 losing their lives during the journey. (UN)
- In March 2016, borders throughout Europe closed to refugees, leaving close to 50,000 now stranded in Greece with no way forward. (UNHCR)
- Germany had the most asylum applications in 2015, but Hungary had the highest in proportion to its population with 1,800 refugees per 100,000 local residents. (BBC)
- As of early 2016, the number of Syrian people in need of aid is more than the entire population of the Netherlands at 17 million. (USAID)
- Syria now accounts for the largest refugee population, with more than 3 million forced to flee the country. The UN predicts that there could close to 5 million registered Syrian refugees by the end of 2016.
- On top of those who have become refugees outside of Syria, there are another 7.6 million internally displaced persons (IDP) within the country.
- 4 million Syrian children have no means of getting an education safely within the country or as refugees. (Global Research Feb2016)
- As many as 50% of Syrians suffer serious psychological distress due to the violence, death, and instability that surround them in their country and as refugees. (USAID)
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Welcome to ADRA
The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) Australia works with people in poverty and distress to create just and positive change through empowering partnerships and responsible action.
ADRA Australia provides development projects and emergency management for people in Australia, the Pacific, Asia and Africa.
ADRA Australia is fully accredited with the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAid) and is signatory to the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) Code of Conduct.
ADRA Australia is part of the worldwide ADRA network, which has presence in 125 Countries.
ADRA is the official humanitarian arm of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
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