Thinking of Christian Refugee Children on Thanksgiving and Christmas
A special message from William J. Murray, the chairman of the Religious Freedom Coalition in Washington, DC
Orphans of the martyred come first: We cannot wait until after Thanksgiving to get everything in place for our Christmas for Refugees program. For those new to the Religious Freedom Coalition, the Christmas for Refugees program holds Christmas Day events for Christian children that include a meal, music and games. Each child takes home a family gift of a large box of food staples for Christmas. This is the second year of the program.
Some history: For more than a decade the Religious Freedom Coalition supported various aid programs to Christian refugees from Iraq. Over the last three years of fighting in Syria, that work has grown to support programs for Syrian Christians as well. In all our aid programs we remain steadfast in that only Christians are helped.
For over ten years we assisted one medical clinic in Amman, Jordan that helped Iraqi Christian refugees. Several times I personally carried two or three extra-large suitcases at a time full of pharmaceuticals to Amman, as did others. The antibiotics and other drugs, furnished by MAP International, were in bulk form rather than pill form to allow the volunteer doctors there to mix them into solutions for both children and adults, allowing more of each drug to be carried. I have done my best to make sure that every dollar counted, that there was no waste, and that 100% of the aid went to Christians.
In 2013 the Christmas program was begun to bring spiritual help as well as food and medicine. Many of the children have had fathers or older brothers who have been martyred, murdered in cold blood by al-Nusra and Islamic State (ISIL) fighters. In some cases they have been forced to watch their fathers being beheaded or in some cases crucified.
Please keep in mind that Syria was not a poor nation and that most of the Christian children were middle class or better, living in good homes with heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer. Their parents had good jobs or owned businesses, owned their own homes and had cars. Most of the Christian children in Syria attended private Christian schools. Now these children, with what is left of their families, are living day to day often in the basements of buildings like stray dogs. It is not safe for them in the U.N. refugee camps which are overrun by Islamic gangs that recruit jihad fighters.
The meals themselves are not that costly, perhaps just $4.00 to $5.00 each. The real cost is in transporting the children to the events and the cost of the box of food they take home with them. The box contains over $30.00 worth of food. In all, the cost this year will be $41.00 per child. Except for one employee in Lebanon, all the work done in Jordan and Lebanon is volunteer. Local churches provide the places for the meals to be served in most cases.
In all honesty, mistakes were made last year with the program that after experience will not be repeated this year. We had one huge hall in Jordan and planned on all the children being cared for at once. One day before the dinner a huge snow and ice storm hit Jordan that closed most of the roads and knocked out power in over 85% of the county. Several children froze to death the night before the dinner was supposed to take place. Because of the power outage, over a period of a week we had to hold several dinners at different, smaller locations as power became available.
As a result of our experience last year we are arranging for ten Christmas dinners in Jordan and ten in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. This is the large valley that connects Lebanon and Syria and where most of the Christian refugees we can reach out to are located. There will be about 100 children each from a different family at each dinner and each will take home a large box of food for the rest of their family. Included will be some Christmas items and candy for any brothers or sisters.
This is my prayer: That the entire program for Christmas be completely funded before Thanksgiving. The cost for 1,000 children in Lebanon including the meals, all transportation and the box of food staples to take home will be $41,000 or $41.00 per family. The cost in Jordan will be a bit less, about $35.00 per child. To reach this goal we need to raise a total of $76,000 before Thanksgiving Day which is November 27th this year.
There is a powerful reason I am praying for full funding by Thanksgiving Day. The ministries we are working with in Lebanon have pleaded with me to expand the program to another 500 children! All I could tell the ministers there is that I would try, but that means another $20,500. If we can get the full funding for the current program of 1,000 children in Lebanon by Thanksgiving I will be able to push on social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, during December to expand the program to another 500. From my experience it is very difficult to raise funds on the Internet very far out. Most people react on the Internet on short notice.
Please keep something in mind about the Christmas program and all the other programs the Religious Freedom Coalition has been involved in with Christian refugees and only Christian refugees. WE DO NOT ACCEPT ANY USAID, EU OR UN FUNDS. The Religious Freedom Coalition’s history of work in the Middle East would qualify us for USAID funds; however, if they are accepted we would have to abide by U.S. government rules. That would mean being forced to hand over most of the aid to Muslims. We would probably be forced to call the Christmas program a “Holiday Dinner” and be required to have an Imam present. NO THANKS!
The Christmas for Refugees program is a separate budget item. The funds are maintained in a separate account. Last week $5,000 already donated for the program was wired to Lebanon to begin the organizational phase of the work that includes arranging the transportation of the children to the various dinners. We are on our way; this is something that can and will be accomplished with your help and the hand of our Almighty God. Please help today!