More than one million Syrian refugees having fled the fighting in Syria for safety in Lebanon—a country of just four-and-a-half million people.
The influx of people needing assistance has posed a huge challenge for local churches and aid groups. But it also provides a unique opportunity to offer help, too.
“We saw this as an opportunity to show love and kindness,” says Reverend Jihad Haddad, a Baptist pastor in Lebanon who is distributing aid provided by Canadians Foodgrains Bank and its members, Canadian Baptist Ministries and World Renew.
“The food packages from the Foodgrains Bank have enabled us to do that,” he says. “We are currently helping 1,500 families.”
Many of the refugees are “living in deplorable conditions—in tents, garages, backyard sheds, and so on,” he says.
For Haddad, helping the refugees is also personal. His first name—Jihad—means “wrestle” and he has wrestled all his life against fear, hatred, and violence in Lebanon, a country which has been torn by sectarian violence in the past.
In 1995, Haddad along with a group of pastors and Christian lay workers started the Lebanese Society for Educational & Social Development (LSESD). LSESD, a partner of Canadian Baptist Ministries, seeks to build bridges between communities and facilitate peace, justice and reconciliation in Lebanon.
More recently, LSESD has been responding to needs of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, providing food packages with basic foods like beans, oil, noodles, and some canned foods.
They are reaching out to refugees regardless of their religious affiliation.
“I have told them we are helping because we are Christians expressing our love, and because once we passed through the same kind of situation that they are now facing,” Hadad says. “We can understand what they are experiencing.”
Haddad is in Canada November 11-20 speaking at Foodgrains Bank fall meetings in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.