Tag Archives: Syrian refugees


BLOG 284 December 21, 2015

Chanukah’s come and gone leaving us the message to light a candle in a dark night. In a few days, Christmas will be proclaiming peace and good will to the world. Tragically, the Middle East cannot hear. The war cry is hostility and attack.

The impact has sent Americans reeling.

The most recent shootings in San Bernardino sent shock waves reverberating from California to New York. Extreme Muslim terrorists are impacting America. More and more people are being captured by fear. Look at the numbers.

For 20 years a majority of American’s opposed assault weapons. A recent poll by ABC News and the Washington Post illustrates the shift. Sixty-four percent now feel that carrying guns is the right approach to stopping terrorist and self-defense. Today only 26% of the public favor any ban or control on carrying handguns. Forty-seven percent of the public have guns in their homes. A recent national news story featured church members and pastors on a target range practicing their ability to shoot.

America is an armed camp.

Interestingly enough, a study in Connecticut demonstrated a 72% percent drop in gun deaths after a ban was legislated. However, to bring up such facts to an NRA dominated Congress won’t win any popularity contests. Often gun advocates view their weapons with religious fervor. Arguing with this mentality goes nowhere. However, it is interesting to make a few comparisons. Last year, 47,055 deaths resulted from drug overdose. Compare that against the number killed by terrorists and the risk is clear. You are more apt to be hit by lighting than shot by a terrorist.

However, the impact of the San Bernardino killings may be backfiring on ISIS. American support of military action against the Islamic state is rapidly growing. In January, 2015, the public was split down the middle with 50% opposed to more military action in the Middle East. As of December, 2015, 70% of the country favor intervention. Such a number is extremely high.

One of the reasons the polls demonstrate opposition for any ban on guns and increasing intervention in the Middle East is a lack of confidence in the government’s ability to stop terrorists. Only 22% think the government can stop a “lone wolf” assault. While 45% have no confidence in the government halting a larger attack. Sixty-eight percent of the public found President Obama’s explanation of fighting ISIS to be unsatisfactory. Fifty-three percent oppose Obama’s intention to allow 10,000 Syrian refugees into American.

Doubt persists everywhere.

And what behind all of these numbers? Fear.

Nothing helps the enemies of freedom and peace like fear. In this winter season of light, laughter, and love, let us remember that the coming of the Christ child was to bring goodwill and peace to the world. The answer to fear won’t be found at the end of a gun barrel. Hope can only be discovered in the love of God that transcends every moment in history and replaces fear with hope.

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Filed under America, middle east, Muslims, Syria


BLOG 280 November 23, 2015

The terrorist killings and attacks in Paris and Belgium have raised new fears and questions about refugees. This flood of humanity pouring out of Syria and the Middle East represent the largest migration in the recorded history of the world. But why aren’t they going South instead of North? Aren’t Saudi Arabia and Kuwait closer? Why not them?

Actually, Lebanon has received the largest number of Syrian refugees on a per capita basis. The Saudi’s claimed to have taken in 2.5 million but the actual number is more somewhere between 100,000 to 250,000 at best. This doesn’t begin to touch the 60 million currently on foot. Not since the surge of displaced persons, including Jews and other refugees after World War II, has the world witnessed such an upheaval. They are coming not only from Afghanistan, Iraq, Gaza, but also North African countries. Currently, the United States is caught in a political debate about the possibilities of receiving Syrian immigrants that might have a few terrorists in the mix.

And it all began with the Syrian Civil War nearly five years ago!

So, why don’t they all march South?

One reason is geography. It is easier to take your chances in surviving ocean crossings than a trip across the scorching desert. A second look at a map reveals endless stretches of thirsty sands. I once crossed the Sinai desert in the winter and felt humidity that was like a minus 20% below the scale. With all the amenities, I carried, the journey still imparted genuine concern.

Another reason is the strict regulatory rules imposed on any influx of foreign labor. Because these countries did not sign the 1951 Geneva Convention regulations on refugees, they do not have to confer basic rights on refugees.

Countries like the Saudis continue to be concerned that a large migration could destabilize their kingdoms. Really? That isn’t a genuine concern in Europe today? Note how Hungary dogmatically closed their borders.

Even Arab journalists have described life in Europe as holding out better possibilities for equality and justice under the law. Women are treated equally and such is not the case to the South.

At the same time, many in France, Germany, and countries like Austria and the Czech Republic worry about where this will end. For example, Passau, Germany has 50,000 inhabitants with 48 churches and four pubs. Today and everyday 35,000 immigrants pass through the town. This influx has caused the local officials to end up in an outspoken conflict with Chancellor Angela Merkel. Polls indicate Germans are equally divided on accepting or rejecting asylum.

While the knee-jerk reaction of politicians running for the White House as well as a majority of governors screaming to stop the overflow into their areas, the dam is still broken and the flood has already spilled over. Two basic questions confront the entire world: What can be done practically – and – what is our moral response.

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Filed under America, Arabs, middle east, Refugee camps


          The Syrian civil war affects many on the outside of Syria.

          An Israeli charity has just delivered 70 tons of sanitation items, 670 tons of food, as well as 20 tons of medications to Syrian refugees. Because of the traditional hostility of the Syrian government, the organization cannot be named. Nevertheless, 1,200 Israelis continue to serve the victims of Syria’s civil war. They have been fund-raising to purchase 3,000 special protection kits for Syrian medical teams now working in 14 towns in Syria.

Israeli relief groups recognize the danger that they could come from Arab attacks. However, they believe they are at the right place at the right time making a significant difference.  Rather than retreat because of fear, they believe not recognizing the impact of indifference also has its own way of killing.

Jordanians struggle with different concerns. Even though they are a small country, Jordan hosts a huge number of refugees. Because the civil war seems endless, they fear many omigrants are settling in for a long stay. Because of the influx of large numbers of Palestinians fleeing the Israeli war of Independence as well as the Yom Kippur war, they know that such numbers can upset the fragile demographic balance. The Jordanians had to eventually run Yasser Arafat and the PLO out of their country. The war in Iraq sent tens of thousands into Jordan. In a country of six million, the new presence of 600,000 Syrians produces a new challenge to the balance of power.

With a common language and racial background, the Syrians quickly adapt to their Jordanian surroundings and settle in. Obviously, schools and water supply are stained by the sudden increase in population. However, the balance in population is also affected by the influx of outsiders. The original population of Jordan came from Bedouin tribes previously known as the “East bankers.” However, his group, (that the monarchy depends on) has slowly been losing their influence as previous wars have brought more immigrants into their country. East bankers and the indigenous population fear they could become a minority and guest in their own land.

A government minister recently noted that the influx is the equivalent of the United States absorbing Canada overnight. The cost of hosting these Syrian refugees is now at least a billion dollars a year. To add to the strain, low-skilled Jordanians often lose their jobs to Syrians who work for less and are generally better trained.

A Jordanian recently said, “We’re not against the Syrian refugees, but we want them kept inside the camps.”

No end is in sight except to build more camps.

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Filed under Civil War, Israel, middle east, Syria


            Last week we took a brief overview look at the continuing civil war in Syria and the effect that Russian support had on the struggle. With 50,000 to 60,000 citizens killed and a continuing capacity to destabilize the Middle East, the world needs to worry about Syria.

            Russia appears to be going through a continual spasm as Vladimir Putin pushes not only for dominance but also to bend the elite to fit the national mood of the country. Recent decisions by the Duma (the lower house of the Parliament) passed undebated legislation to tighten the state’s control over dissent and political activism. The January 14, edition of The New York Times reports that Putin  has made strengthening Russia’s sovereignty his priority. Halting the adoption of the thousands of Russian children needing homes abroad is an example of how ruthless these decisions can be. Protestors filled Moscow’s streets.

As has been the case in Syria, it also reflects how wrong Russia can be.

The world of Syrian refugees continues to reflect the incredible hardship war has visited on the survivors. In Zaatar, Jordan, floods washed through refugee tents and left boggy, muddy trails through the camps. As winter approaches, many of the refugees fear for their survival. In these desert camps that crowd 50,000 people into nine square miles, normal is somewhere between horrible and inhumane.

International talks between Russian and the United States in Geneva, Switzerland expressed a mutual agreement that the war should end, but little else. At the United Nations Russia and China continue to block resolutions to pressure President Bashar Assad to leave. The United States can not envision how a new transitional government could be created if Assad is a part of it. While the diplomats argue, the combatants continue to kill each other.

Syrian troops advanced in a strategic suburb of Damascus, attempting to secure Assad’s seat of power in the capital. At the same time, rebels made advances in the north. The government announced recapturing much of Daraya, an area surrounding a major military air base just south of the capital. A day earlier the rebels took control of the northwest Taftanaz air base in a blow to the military. It is not easy to tell what this tit-for-tat exchange actually means. Often such announcements turn out to be propaganda. It is clear that one of the rebels most effective fighting units s is the Jabhat al-Nusra arm of al-Qaida. Not a good sign for the future!

In an unusual move, the rebels freed and swapped 48 Iranian prisoners for 2,000 prisoners held by the government. This number included women and children. The deal was brokered by Qatar, Iran, and Turkey. No one is certain why Syria agreed, but it may have been because of pressure applied from Tehran, Assad’s remaining major ally. Iran denied they were members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and claimed they were pilgrims to Shiite religious shrines in Syria. Such an explanation is of the order of explaining American troops are in Afghanistan looking for Santa Claus and the North Pole.

The civil war goes on and the death toll continues to rise. The United Nations appears completely inept. Can it get much worse? Yeah, it can.

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Filed under Civil War, Refugee camps, Russia, Syria