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Excerpts from John Balouziyeh New Book on the Syrian Refugee Crisis

The Beirut Enterprise is honoured to present John Balouziyeh's latest book Hope and a Future: The Story of Syrian Refugees (Time Books, 2016):

"As an attorney based in the Middle East, I have witnessed scenes that would draw tears from a stone, scenes that have made the gravity of the Syrian refugee crisis terribly clear to me. In the streets of Beirut, I was astonished by the number of Syrian mothers cradling their infants, begging for money to buy medicine, some succumbing to prostitution, trading their bodies for loaves of bread. In Jordan, an infrastructure already strained with water scarcity and rising energy prices is now buckling under the weight of more than half a million Syrian refugees. In Iraqi Kurdistan, countless refugees and internally-displaced persons have been reduced to eating grass to survive. 

Umm Haitham struggles to support six children with an allowance of USD 67.50 that she receives from UNHCR each month.

In my travels, I met orphans separated from all known relatives, innocent bystanders rendered limbless by bomb shrapnel, children who bear psychological and physical scars, widows unable to treat terminal illnesses and families whose breadwinners one day never returned home, never again to be seen, leaving behind a family unable to pay for food, medicine and shelter. I have met refugees that have been displaced multiple times—first from Homs to other areas of Syria, then back to Homs, and finally forced to flee Syria altogether. I have met Palestinian refugees who for decades lived peacefully in Syria, only to be forced to flee to urban centers or camps in Lebanon or Jordan. I have met young children robbed of their childhood, forced to work to survive, loaded with burdens too heavy to bear. Many of these children have only known human suffering. Theirs is a land marked by blood and gore, ruled by heartless, lawless men.
For countless refugees, the Mediterranean Sea has become a graveyard. One Syrian child whose small, lifeless body washes up on our shores is too many; 13,000 child victims of war is inadmissible.
As I visited refugee camps in Syria’s neighboring countries, I witnessed first-hand the challenges refugees face on a daily basis in their struggle to survive—shortages of food, medicine and other provisions, the inability to care for the sick, the daunting journey from Syria into surrounding countries—for many refugees, undertaken by foot, often carrying small children and the wounded and injured; sometimes undertaken in the bitter cold of winter.
The Syrian civil war has divided a nation and triggered the greatest humanitarian tragedy of the 21st century. Syria has been torn apart by sectarianism, a virulent strain whose wanton and widespread destruction has known no limits. If we fail to act, an entire generation will grow up not knowing human compassion. If we continue to demonstrate indifference to the plight of the Syrian people, a generation of Syrians will normalize violence and indifference to human suffering.
The Syrian War also gives humanity a chance to act. We can demonstrate human compassion in a way that history has never known. We can restore human dignity to the victims of the conflict, seeking justice for the needy, defending the fatherless, pleading for widows, visiting the distressed in their trouble. We can undo their heavy burdens, free the oppressed and feed the hungry. We can open the doors of our homes to the poor and the vulnerable who have been cast out. 

  Stars of Hope™ impart messages of hope and healing, such as “courage,” “dream” and “friendship.” As I gave each child a star, their eyes lit up as though I had given them a priceless treasure. After I had completed distributing the Stars, the children did not turn around and ask for food or money. Their only demand was that I stay and play with them.

It is no longer possible to ignore the Syrian refugee crisis. The Syrian people are knocking, and before each of us is a choice. Do we open the door?"

This blog entry was adapted from the author’s book, Hope and a Future: The Story of Syrian Refugees (Time Books, 2016). All book proceeds will be donated to charities assisting Syrian refugees.

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