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Praying for Peace: Syria and Iraq

posted by September 18th, 2014

Though their conflicts differ, six locations around the world share a common need: peace. Every day this leading up to the International Day of Peace, we’ll highlight one of these six places and offer prayers for peace specific to the needs of the area.

Today, we’re focusing on Syria and Iraq.

[The Situation]

The conflict in Syria is now in its fourth year, with violence now escalating into Northern Iraq. In Syria , the conflict has already claimed more than 190,000 lives—at least 10,000 confirmed to be children. It has forced approximately 9 million people to flee their homes and 2.5 million to take refuge in neighbouring countries. In Iraq, Yazidis, Christians, and other religious and ethnic minorities are among the 1.8 million people displaced by conflict since January 2014. Displaced families are in desperate need of food, shelter, clean water, medicine, and protection.

The region desperately needs our prayers.Experts warn that if the immediate needs for education, psychosocial support and protection are not met for the 5.5 million children currently living in desperate conditions in Syria and neighbouring countries, a whole generation could be lost.

[The People]

Adapted from World Vision Magazine.
 

Children, the most vulnerable in the Syrian crisis, have lost their homes, their schools, and their way of life. Now, they are sharing their greatest loss. One by one, the child refugees raise their hands to show how many loved ones they have lost in the conflict — their fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, and cousins. Syria’s war, now in its fourth year, has created more than 1.4 million child refugees.

In recent months, the violence in Syria has escalated into Northern Iraq, where families are fleeing in harsh conditions, enduring the long journey in searing temperatures that regularly exceed 40 degrees Celsius (105 F). They are living in camps, churches, tents and with host families and are in great need of food for their children, water, hygiene items, blankets, and shelter.

Enam, a young mother, with an 11-month-old baby, Jacqueline, said of her journey, “We didn’t know if we would make it… People were being killed in front of us; men, women, even children.” She added, “Many women, like me, had to flee and some were pregnant. It was hard for me but some women even gave birth on the walk and they had to keep walking with new babies because what other choice did they have? Some didn’t survive. One of my friends had a baby and he died and we had to keep going.”

Enam and Jacqueline are receiving some food from local government volunteers, but Enam says nobody knows how long this will continue. She also lives in fear of getting evicted from the site by the building owner. “No one has come here before to ask what we need. We need shelter and if we can’t get safe shelter maybe we need to get out of Iraq,” she adds.

“We need shelter and if we can’t get safe shelter maybe we need to get out of Iraq,” she adds.

“We really want to go home but we need peace. We want peace. I want peace for my baby,” she says.

Recognising that children are always disproportionately affected by conflict and displacement, World Vision’s global rapid response team is on the ground in Iraq, setting up operations to help these families.

[Our Response]

World Vision has been responding to the needs of refugees and their host communities since 2011 through the provision of food vouchers, access to education, heaters, blankets, hygiene kits, psychosocial support and water, hygiene and sanitation infrastructure. As the needs continue to grow, World Vision is also increasing our response across the region, aiming to reach at least 1.5 million people (across Lebanon, Jordan and Syria) in the coming months.

In Iraq, World Vision is prioritizing the needs of children in this crisis, recognizing that they are always disproportionately affected by conflict and displacement, and is working with local partners to respond to the immediate needs of displaced Iraqis who have fled attacks in northern Iraq.

 

 

[Our Prayers]

Pray for peace.

Lord, Psalm 46:9 declares that You, “Make wars cease to the ends of the earth.” Help those in conflict with one another to come to a peaceful solution, so that civilians may resume their daily lives. Lord, we trust in You.

Pray that children are able to continue their education.

Lord, You know that children whose educations are disrupted often have a hard time catching up. This threatens their future prospects to have a career and care for a family. We ask You to help children who are missing classes today. Help them to resume their studies with ease. And give teachers the training to help these students regain what they may have lost. Lord, we trust in You.

Pray that people will find adequate shelter and water.

Lord, the needs of such a large group of displaced people is overwhelming. Many of the displaced are housed in camps, schools, churches or mosques, abandoned buildings, or in open fields. These spaces cannot accommodate the physical and protection needs of large populations. And their sanitation systems and water resources may not be adequate. We ask You to provide the safe shelter necessary to accommodate this large group of displaced people. And let there be potable water to meet their needs.

Pray that displaced and conflict-affected families will have life-sustaining food.

Many displaced families have resorted to eating only one meal a day due to lack of food sources. We are reminded that You supernaturally fed thousands with a few small fish and loaves of bread. We ask for Your help to supply families with the food necessary to strengthen their bodies and help children to grow.

Pray for communities that are hosting refugees.

Lord, have mercy on those who have no warm place to stay. As resources become scarce, tensions rise between refugees and their host communities. Provide desperate families with ample resources to stay warm and survive the winter cold. Infuse aid organizations with extra supplies to meet their variety of needs. Lord, we trust in You.

[your turn]

Do you have a prayer of your own for the families suffering in Syria and Iraq?

Share your response  on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook as your #puzzlepeace, and as we continue praying and moving for peace in celebration of the International Day of Peace on Sunday, keep checking back for more on our next featured location around the world.

Praying for Peace: South Sudan

posted by September 17th, 2014

Though their conflicts differ, six locations around the world share a common need: peace. Every day this leading up to the International Day of Peace, we’ll highlight one of these six places and offer prayers for peace specific to the needs of the area.

Today, we’re focusing on South Sudan.

[the situation]

A brutal conflict between former government partners and the government has led to the displacement of more than 1.4 million people. More than 1 million of these – half of whom are children – are internally displaced, while the others are refugees in nearby countries. Internally displaced people (IDPs) live in overcrowded camps, putting a severe strain on the food, water, healthcare, shelter, and sanitation services available. More than 3,800 children have been registered as orphaned or separated from their parents since the conflict began.

One-third of the population of South Sudan (four million people) desperately needs food and immediate aid. International humanitarian groups fear that if treatment for malnutrition is not immediately expanded, a quarter of a million children will be severely malnourished by the end of the year, and 50,000 children under age five may die.

[the people]

As violence has escalated in South Sudan, more and more children are witnesses or victims of attacks. In the United Nations base in Malakal, where World Vision is providing relief services, children refugees recount fighting in South Sudan and their worries for the future.

[our response]

World Vision and other humanitarian groups like the UN are rushing food and other essential items out to remote areas of the country that have been embroiled in fighting and now risk being cut off by heavy seasonal rains.

World Vision is setting up water points and providing sanitation facilities in Malakal, the U.N. area where 20,000 displaced civilians are living in tarpaulin shelters. World Vision also is bringing relief aid to displaced families in nearby communities.

[our prayers]

Pray that safe shelter will be found for South Sudanese families.

Lord, come to the aid of families who “ … hug the rocks for lack of shelter” (Job 24:8). Help them find safe places to flee from the fighting in their country. In Your mercy, protect families from fighting.

Pray for children’s health and welfare.

Lord, we lift to You the South Sudanese children who lack food and healthcare. We ask that You would help their parents find food for them. Let aid distributions reach those children who need it the most. In Your mercy, provide children with what they need to survive.

Pray for hostilities to be settled.

Lord, You “make wars to cease to the ends of the earth … ” (Psalm 46:9). We ask for hostilities in South Sudan to come to an end. Help South Sudan’s leaders to amicably settle their political differences. In Your mercy, bring peace to this nation.

Pray for aid workers.

Lord, we lift up aid workers in South Sudan to You. Give them strength and courage for each day’s tasks. We ask You to sustain staff, and encourage them during difficult challenges. In Your mercy, guide aid workers with wisdom. 

[your turn]

What’s your prayer for South Sudan?

Share your response  on TwitterInstagram, or Facebook as your #puzzlepeace, and as we continue praying and moving for peace in celebration of the International Day of Peace on Sunday, keep checking back for more on our next featured location around the world.


Praying for Peace: Gaza

posted by September 16th, 2014

Though their conflicts differ, six locations around the world share a common need: peace. Every day this leading up to the International Day of Peace, we’ll highlight one of these six places and offer prayers for peace specific to the needs of the area.

Today, we’re focusing on Gaza.

[the situation]

The ongoing conflict in Israel/Palestine continues to threaten millions of lives in the region. Since violence reignited in July, more than 2,131 people have died, including 501 children. At least 10,224 people have been injured, including more than 3,100 children. Nearly 500,000 children in Gaza were unable to start the new school year as scheduled, and more than 200 schools have been damaged or destroyed.

The U.N. children’s agency office in Gaza says that more than 373,000 children have had traumatic experiences and will need psychosocial support as a result of the latest conflict. The ongoing occupation and blockade of the Gaza strip continues to jeopardize the lives of Gaza children, depriving them of their basic human rights and robbing them of their childhood and even dreams of a better future. This continues to spark the cycles of violence that threatens the lives and safety of children in both Israel and Palestine.

This region desperately needs a lasting and just peace that recognizes the fundamental human rights of Israelis and Palestinians to be secure within recognized borders.

[the people]

The following is an excerpt from a story by World Vision International.
 

“Even in my dreams, I would have never imagined that one day, as a Muslim, I will pray in a church,” said Mohmoud, a 27-year-old father and one of the people who left their homes in the Shajaiys area in Gaza who now finds refuge in an Orthodox church in Gaza city. “It has been an unfamiliar experience for everyone in this peaceful place. This is the true meaning of unity, love and family. This is Gaza,” he adds.

On the night of July 20, 2014, artillery bombs fell on the very crowded Shajaiya area, in the eastern part of Gaza city. At least 75 people were killed. Thousands of others left their homes in fear and panic, looking for shelter.

“On the [that] night, every second there was an artillery bomb attacking a building, a home, a mosque in Shajaiya,” says Amal, a 35-year-old mother, with tears in her eyes. “One of these bombs destroyed part of my home but we were so scared to leave because we knew that we would be killed for sure. So, we waited, and waited. Thousands of people were running with us, no one knew where to go. We just wanted to leave as fast as we could,” she recalls.

After a long breath, Amal continues: “My family ran as part of a group and one of the men said that we have to go to the Church, as they will for sure allow us to enter and will provide support. So, we went. It was the first time in my life to enter a church. Despite it being a strange place for me, the welcome we received made me feel safe for the first time in more than 10 days.”

Around 600 people are sheltering in the Saint Porphyrios Orthodox Church in Gaza City; most of them are women and children. With the help of other nearby families and humanitarian organizations, the church provides shelter, food, water, supplies, and medicine for the sheltered families. “These people lost their homes and are looking for safety,” says Archbishop Alexios. “They knocked on our doors, and we opened with love,” he added.

Hundreds of people found a safe shelter in the church. “I worked my whole life to build my home,” says Ramadan, a 34-year-old father. “I prefer to die in it rather than leave it. But, the screams and cries of my children left no choice but to leave,” he adds.

His neighbour, Eid, 43, joins him, adding: “shelter and food are not everything, the respect we had is more valuable. In Ramadan, our fasting period, no one ate or drank in front of us; they respected our fasting and our feelings. Even the Christian neighbours of the Church cooked for us our meals. They never left us. We felt that we are within our family. We felt safe,” he adds.

“God is love, and this love has no limits. It is love for your family, your children, your neighbours and love for every one in need,” says Archbishop Alexios.

[our response]

More than 5,000 children in World Vision programs have been displaced by the conflict. Eight children enrolled in World Vision programs in Gaza have died in the recent conflict.

World Vision has suspended its regular development work in Gaza and has turned instead to relief operations. World Vision has distributed thousands of food parcels and hygiene kits, is providing medical supplies to private hospitals, and has set up 40 Child-Friendly Spaces to provide a safe environment for children to recover from traumatic events.

[our prayers]

Pray for children who have suffered injury or loss.

Lord, we grieve with children who have lost parents, siblings, relatives, or friends in the violence. Help families and communities assist children who are suffering emotionally from the death of someone dear to them. Heal those who have been injured as You guide those caring for their wounds. Bless children with hearts and minds comforted by Your love.

Pray for children’s communities that have been destroyed.

Lord, we ask that You would help all communities be restored or made even better once rebuilding begins. We pray that all the streets in Gaza will be full of children playing safely, their well-being secured. Amid the distress, help them concentrate on their studies and continue to pursue excellence in scholastic subjects. less children with completely restored homes and neighborhoods.

Pray for peace.

Lord, Psalm 122:6 urges us to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” Verse 7 continues, “For the sake of my brothers and friends, I will say, ‘Peace be within you.’” Yet, today we see violence consuming Israelis and Palestinians. We don’t have the answer but are confident that You can restore peace. We pray for a lasting and just peace that recognizes the fundamental human rights of Israelis and Palestinians to be secure within recognized borders. Bless this region with a spirit of brotherhood and friendship, bringing an end to strife and violence in all communities.

Pray for humanitarian workers.

Lord, our staff’s hearts have been broken by the destruction and loss of life they’ve seen in Palestinian and Israeli communities. The death of even one individual is tragic; the loss of eight children has been particularly difficult. And so little can be done while the violence is raging. Help all humanitarian workers see hope for the future. Bless World Vision staff and our humanitarian colleagues with Your strengthening presence.

[your turn]

How can we better love our enemies?

Share your response  on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook as your #puzzlepeace, and as we continue praying and moving for peace in celebration of the International Day of Peace on Sunday, keep checking back for more on our next featured location around the world.


Praying for Peace: The Democratic Republic of Congo

posted by September 15th, 2014

Though their conflicts differ, six locations around the world share a common need: peace. Every day this leading up to the International Day of Peace, we’ll highlight one of these six places and offer prayers for peace specific to the needs of the area.

Today, we’re focusing on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

[the situation]

Suffering the effects of an ongoing civil war between the rebel group March 23 and government forces, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is experiencing overcrowded hospitals, spread of disease, rampant exploitation and abuse, and the displacement of its people. Rebel groups kidnap children and force them into military or sexual labor. Cholera spreads through overcrowded refugee camps due to lack of sanitation and hygiene. (more…)

Praying for Peace: Surveying Six Places in Need

posted by September 12th, 2014

Though their conflicts differ, six locations around the world share a common need: peace. Every day next week leading up to the International Day of Peace, we’ll highlight one of these six locations and offer prayers for peace specific to the needs of the area.

  • Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is struggling to recover from more than a decade of conflict that has killed millions and devastated the lives of the population through violence, disease and poverty. Close to one million people remain internally displaced. (more…)