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Westminster Supports Humanitarian Aid to Syria

When the civil war in Syria began three years ago, families started losing their homes, businesses, and churches. Tragically, loss of life became a daily occurrence for Syrians. The regional Presbyterian Synod (known as the National Evangelical Synod of Syria-Lebanon or NESSL) responded with aid, helping nearly 500 Presbyterian families relocate and providing food and other assistance as needed. When the war escalated during late 2011 into 2012, the Synod realized they needed to expand their circle of care to any in need, whether Christian or Muslim, regardless of politics. Working with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, the Synod nominated Rev. Salam Hanna to be sent for training in administering a larger disaster relief program in coordination with other nongovernmental organizations to make the best use of resources and supplies.

Today, with 6.5 million internally displaced Syrians (of an original population of 23 million), the Synod is seeking to reach up to 3,000 families a month with food kits (or vouchers for these items when it is impossible to get the kits into a particular location). The primary focus is on those who have lost their homes, properties, and jobs and are in desperate need. When possible, resources are also shared with those who are still in their homes but are vulnerable because they have low or no income and are widowed, disabled, or elderly or have children in need.

Between August 2013 (when the extended relief program began) and December 2013, more than 6,300 food and hygiene kits or vouchers were distributed in 23 locations in Syria. The need has increased as the violence has continued. Westminster's Church in the World Mission Committee has donated $6,000 to expand food distribution, which will help provide assistance for approximately 180 families over the coming months. The pictured food kits are locally supplied and packaged by volunteer labor, helping to stimulate the local economy.

Presbyterian Elder Abdalla's family is one of thousands that have been helped by the Synod's relief assistance. On October 3, 2013, an opposition group took over their town and confiscated people's properties. Elder Abdalla and his family lost everything that day. They were able to make their way to Latakia, on Syria's west coast, and found a place to live and food to eat through the Synod's help. Elder Abdalla now gives his time to helping other internally displaced families connect with the Synod and other nongovernmental organizations offering assistance.

In the words of Rev. Salam Hanna, thank you for being part of extending the "Church's great witness to the love, mercy, and compassion of God given impartially to all people in need. May the Lord continue to keep and bless you." Let us continue to pray for peace and understanding in this troubled area of the world.