Editorial: Suicide, a rising concern for young refugees

PUBLISHED ON 28 SEPTEMBER, 2016 BY

Lebanon (MNN) — Syrian refugees already face a huge list of challenges. Where will they get their food? Where will they sleep during the winter? How will they provide for their families if they can’t get jobs? How can the children get an education?

The culminating dark reality of all these issues means hope is quickly being extinguished in the hearts of these refugees. And without hope, even the younger generation is contemplating suicide as a way out.

Photo courtesy of SAT-7.

Financial Policy points out already in 2014, the United Nations Population Fund found that 41 percent of young refugees had suicidal urges.

The article also highlights a number of grim patterns that go hand-in-hand with desperation.

Rex Rogers of SAT-7, a Christian satellite television ministry to the Middle East and North Africa, says they see many of these things taking place in refugee camps.

“We’re hearing back about increased suicides, increased sexual trafficking of young people, girls of course and young women but also young boys, we’re certainly seeing and hearing about abuse. And aside from all that, just the tragedy of living under very difficult circumstances in some of these camps.”

On a basic level, they don’t have enough food or hygienic resources. Spiritually, mentally and emotionally, things are equally as grim.

“It’s just a difficult life, to understate it tremendously,” Rogers says.

Stretched to the max

Lebanon, in particular, houses a large number of refugees, and they have scant amount of resources to keep up. As Rogers puts it, the country is roughly the size of Connecticut and is housing somewhere around 1.5 million refugees on top of the four million-plus Lebanese.

And as long as despair is rising in these communities, things like suicide, sex-trafficking, and abuse will continue to grow.

The Foreign Policy says refugees are not permitted to get official jobs, nor are they allowed to build permanent residences. Experts on the ground believe it will become increasingly unsafe for both the Syrians and Lebanese.

A lost generation

Photo courtesy of SAT-7.

One of the biggest problems we’ve seen in refugee camps is the lack of education. While efforts have been made, there are still millions of children who are without school.

Rogers says without education, without guidance, and without a future, these children will be swallowed up and forgotten — a lost generation.

Last spring, SAT-7 began broadcasting a program called ‘My School’. It teaches Arabic, English, mathematics, science, and even French in 30 minute segments, three times a day. While they can’t overtly present the Gospel, Rogers says it’s a big statement that they’re not using the Koran to teach Arabic. In addition, the classes are taught by Christian teachers.

“We’re trying to get into the hearts and lives of these young people, as they say, a potential lost generation. If they grow up without education, and there’s about 12 million out of school right now or at risk of being out of school — they are illiterate, they are much more vulnerable to being radicalized by extremist values and groups, and it’s a time bomb because it doesn’t take long for children to grow up.”

By their teenage years, these children are at a great risk to join the ranks of terrorist organizations.

In short, education is extremely important.

Humanitarian aid and the Gospel

Without hope, these people are despairing even to the point of suicide. But Rogers says it’s not as easy as striking up a conversation with these hurting people to share the hope of the Gospel.

He says it takes time, and it takes effort.

“If a person is starving to death, they can’t focus on someone talking about hope in Christ and the Gospel. So they do need to be fed, they need to be clothed, they need to be warmed, they need to have water.”

In addition, he explains, you have to earn their trust. They’re not coming from a Christian background.

“They’ve been taught all kinds of weird ideas about Christianity and who Christ is, who Christians are. They may be suspicious about that.”

Satellite dishes. Photo courtesy of SAT-7.

Helping meet physical needs, including education, is a bridge to have conversations about Jesus and to model Christian values.

“The situation is so dire and there’s so much incredible need that SAT-7 feels like it’s in a position being a satellite television broadcaster, that at least we can speak to the masses. Because strangely and interestingly, in all those refugee camps, there are satellite dishes and there are TV sets.”

Stepping in

There are numerous ways you can help, regardless of your resources. The first way to help is through prayer.

Pray for SAT-7 and for the people who are on the ground in television ministry. Pray for the Christian ministries working in these camps to bring hope and healing. Pray for Lebanon and the other countries housing refugees. Pray for those suffering in these camps to find hope in Jesus.

Despite the suffering, Rogers say, “There’s a hunger. There’s a hunger for a God who cares, love and reconciliation, there’s hunger for a religion that works, and of course Christ and Christianity is all of that.”

To support SAT-7 financially, click here.

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