When it can, life goes on in Syria

“Come tell me your trouble,I’m not your answer, but I am a listening ear”

Brooke Fraser’s opening lines from the song ‘flags’ echoes the feelings of one foreign worker who lives in a city where many Syrian refugees have come to find shelter. Here is her story:

“You are the first native English speaker we ever talked to.”

I had just arrived in Gaziantep, southeastern Turkey, and my landlord had sponsored an outdoor party. Eager to practice my newly acquired Turkish, I tried to speak to a sweet boy of about 8 years old sitting shyly on a bench nearby. He looked at me confused. A person nearby said, “He doesn’t speak Turkish. He’s Syrian.” I scrambled to remember a phrase in Arabic and the boy smiled. Later I got to meet his family. I learned that they had fled Aleppo just four weeks earlier. In the months that followed, I learned their story and I’ve become like part of their family here in our new city.

Safaa and her husband owned a pharmacy in Aleppo, Syria. They were well off. Safaa remembers the day when her husband came home and told her they must leave Syria. They quickly packed as many of their belongings as they could fit into their car and drove to Turkey. Unlike many Syrians, this family had passports which allowed them to travel easily. Safaa’s brother-in-law and his wife and baby, were not so lucky.

However, even for this once financially secure family the situation is grim. They are living on their savings and have no job prospects in the near future. In Turkey, Syrian refugees are allowed to rent private accommodation but are denied the right to work. They and their children must learn Turkish and must continue their education. The government has set up some schools for the Syrian population though as far as I know, it’s only at primary school level.

“Visiting my Syrian friends invariably means multiple cups of tea while I listen at length to their story. I’m struck over and over by the complexity of the conflict in Syria. The events happening today are inextricably linked with a long and complicated past.

Listening to them is the first step towards healing as we show that their story matters. In doing so we also allow God to work in our hearts the response He desires and that will give unique expression of Himself to them.