I’ve just returned from a trip to Jordan with one of our partner churches. Our purpose in going was to access the situation of Iraqi refugees living there. I was, of course, prepared to see difficult living conditions – but I was still not prepared for what we saw.
There are an estimated 800,000 Iraqis living in Jordan – many of them refugees from the on-going war in their homeland. Most refugees have crossed the border illegally and are waiting for the U.N. to grant them opportunities to move to other countries – with Sweden, Australia and the U.S. being the most likely destinations.
In the mean time, however, they live in what can only be described as very difficult and depressing circumstances. Unable to legally work, those who find part-time jobs are at the mercy of their employers as to how much pay (if any) they receive. Unable to have access to government health care, those needing medical care are forced to seek U.N. relief or pay to visit private clinics. If discovered in the country without proper paperwork, they will likely be deported back to their war-torn country. Thus, they sit in Jordan trying to make ends meet, trying to stay out of trouble and hoping for the day when the U.N. will approve their request to leave the country.
One of the homes which we visited was especially sad. The household consisted of a woman and her two teen-age friends. The woman had suffered a broken hip several years ago in Iraq and had a rod inserted in her hip. When the war broke out, she was accused of helping the U.S. forces and beaten so badly that the rod in her hip broke. Though she did not complain about her situation, it was obvious that she was very uncomfortable with even normal movements such as standing and walking.
Her two house-mates are a 16-year-old girl who has a tumor in her head. Her head appeared to be swollen and the tumor has grown to the point that it blocks 95% of her vision. Her 14-year-old brother is basically dying of kidney failure. He is small, pale and weak. He has been approved for some U.N. – sponsored treatment, but it did not take a doctor to see that he needed more services than what he was getting.
How these three came to be housemates is somewhat unclear to me. Each had been separated from family by the effects of the war and were now trying to survive together without a “breadwinner” in the household.
I think what haunted me most about this meeting was their statement that all of their neighbors would have very similar stories to theirs. All had lost loved ones, fled their homeland, lacked resources and were waiting for someone to help them.
Another family that we met had a 3-year-old son who was never issued a birth certificate. Thus, for them to leave the country would be to go without their son – who could never be proven to belong to them. The father in this urine-smelling house worked 2 hours a day as a hairdresser, which was not even enough to purchase a small space-heater. Thus, the family sat around their one-room house under blankets with virtually no hope for improved conditions.
What also touched me was that NOT ONE person asked us for a hand-out. In fact, they seemed more-than-willing to serve us coffee or cookies when we visited.
Please join me in praying for the Iraqi refugees in Jordan (and Syria too for that matter) and for the church (which I will not name for security purposes) that is even know praying about how to move forward in helping these people with both temporal and eternal needs.