Date: August 28, 2013
Requests for gas masks in Israel increased fourfold this week, according to the Israeli Postal Service. (Story image courtesy Wikimedia Commons. Cover image courtesy EFCA)
Syria (MNN) ― Like kids in a playground fight, world leaders are taking sides over Syria, and a showdown is looming.
The U.S. and UK lead a party of nations who say Syria used chemical weapons against its own people. Russia and Iran back the Syrian government, who blames rebel factions.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and UK Prime Minister David Cameron both condemned the international crime. Kerry spoke of "undeniable" evidence that Syria's government used chemical weapons against its own people. Across the pond, Cameron says parliament members will be recalled from their summer break to discuss how Britain should respond.
"Our sense of basic humanity is offended not only by this cowardly crime, but also by the cynical attempt to cover it up," Kerry told reporters earlier this week.
Meanwhile, Syrian allies Russia and Iran, along with China, strongly urge Western nations to wait for the results of a UN inspection. While Russia warns of a catastrophic ripple effect throughout the Islamic world if the West steps in, Iran takes it a step further.
"If the United States crosses this red line, there will be harsh consequences for the White House," said Iranian military chief Massoud Jazayeri earlier this week.
No matter what happens next, Peter Howard of Food for the Hungry says one result is inevitable.
"Any escalation of violence in the region, whether the U.S. is involved or not, just creates more sadness, more heartbreak, [and] more loss of life," states Howard.
Talk of more attacks "creates more fear and more chaos, and the numbers of refugees are probably likely to only increase in the next few days and weeks," he adds.
FH helps churches on-the-ground in Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan.
"We're supporting local churches and organizations to meet the long-term and immediate needs of the refugees who've been fleeing the war," Howard explains.
Some of FH's support includes food and shelter. FH also provides for less obvious but equally vital needs: "things like mattresses, beds, hygiene kits-- things that families need for living," says Howard.
In addition, Food for the Hungry is tackling a troubling aspect of Syria's crisis: the "Lost Generation."
A UN report released at the end of last week reveals startling statistics. In total, children compose half of all Syrian refugees. A million are under the age of 18, and approximately 740,000 are younger than 11 years old.
Inside Syria, an estimated 7,000 kids have been killed during the three-year civil war, and over 2 million are internally displaced.
"We don't want those children to be lost and to get pulled into the fighting...or into other dangerous occupations," Howard states. "We want those children to be children."
As a result, "Food for the Hungry is supporting what we call 'Child Friendly Spaces,'" he explains, "where children can be kids and where children can learn, so we don't have what many people call the 'Lost Generation.'"
"Day in and day out, there's heartbreak over loss of life, and that's where the Church can shine as they bring the comfort and the hope that [exists] through our compassionate God," says Howard.
"They're God's light in the region, so my prayer and my hope is that the international Church, the Church in America, will come alongside the Syrian Church and the Middle Eastern Church as they reach out to their communities."