(Pictured: Jamal and his mother, Kinza. The names of both have been changed for privacy.)
Over two thousand years ago, the Prince of Peace was born in an unassuming stable.
Today, less than 300 kilometers away, lives a boy named Jamal. Jamal is seven, and his bright eyes and tender heart speak to everything peace should bring.
But there is conflict woven through Jamal’s story. Seven years ago, his family fled the terror of Syria’s civil war to survive in Lebanon. Jamal has no memories of the home where his family lived and grew potatoes, beets, onions, and cotton. And while Jamal does not share the trauma of his older brother from the day the shelling started next door, still Jamal knows violence and heartbreak.
He knows the hunger of a family bereft of stable income. He knows the fear of living in a place where he is not warmly received. From his earliest existence, Jamal’s body knows what it means to yearn for peace and belonging.
Jamal’s mother, Kinza, knows that ache as well. Yet Kinza remembers the war in Lebanon decades ago and the Syrian occupation. So she understands why the Lebanese feel wary of helping Syrians. Kinza carries the wounds of the Lebanese people from their own violent past. She carries their wounds, and she carries her own. She carries a cry to provide for her family.
Where Jamal and Kinza live today, there’s a Lebanese church that has walked its own journey of healing from conflict. Though their road has not always been easy, the church believes the love they have been given in Christ is meant for everyone. So they have started to confront the violence of their past and present with the promise of shared peace. Partnering with Christian humanitarian organizations like MERATH and World Renew, this church is one of 23 local churches who have opened their doors and their hearts to provide for Syrian refugees, creating a place for Jamal and his family to belong until the day they can return home.
Perhaps this church’s choice to love their neighbour by handing out thousands of food vouchers, milk, and diapers seems small in comparison to the war’s violence; yet their acts of love are the very fabric of hope for Jamal and his family.
300 kilometers away from Bethlehem, there’s a Lebanese church introducing Syrian families to the Prince of Peace every single day.
“His name,” they say, “is Emmanuel. God with Jamal. God with us.”
World Renew is a non-profit organization with a family-centered approach to ending global poverty with food security, peace and justice, economic livelihood and health. World Renew joins families and communities in more than 30 developing countries to change global hunger, poverty, and illness.