The Religious Freedom Coalition (RFC) brought the joy of Christmas to thousands of children and their families in the war-torn Middle East. Based on his experience in the region, the group’s leader offered a sober assessment of the consequences of President Obama’s policies.
According to The Gospel World Herald, “In Syria alone, the Christian population has plunged by nearly two-thirds since the country’s civil war started in 2011. In Iraq, the Christian population is teetering on extinction, dwindling from around 1.5 million in 2003 to well below 200,000 now.” While thousands have been killed (in some of the most barbaric ways imaginable), many more have fled to surrounding nations, including Jordan and Lebanon.
Christmas for Refugees, a project of the RFC, brought hope and life to over 4000 refugee children and their families this Christmas in Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon this year. The group fed children, ages 6 to 12, a traditional Arabic Christmas dinner and led them in games and singing. Puppet shows and other activities were part of the festivities too. All were given children’s Bibles or Bible-themed coloring books, depending on their ages, as well as a “joy bag” with food staples to take “home” to their families in refugee camps.
As reported by Western Journalism, the group hosted its first Christmas meal for approximately 1000 children in Amman, Jordan, in 2013. The effort expanded in 2014 to include Lebanon, with over 2000 children participating.
This year the effort doubled again to 4000 and for the first time included programs in Iraq. Over 600 children participated in the two events held in that country. “With this many children, each program required about forty volunteers including musicians, actors, puppeteers, security and yes, child control. Just imagine trying to keep 300 kids mostly in their seats during a high energy program that delivered the Gospel message,” William Murray chairman of the RFC’s Christmas for Refugees reported. Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse provided gifts for all the children.
“What all programs in all three nations had in common was the presentation of the story of the coming of Jesus as the true meaning of Christmas Day,” Murray recounted. “The central purpose of the Christmas for Refugees program is not to feed children for a day but rather to reinforce the message of the Gospel and to spiritually encourage the children and their families at a bleak period in history for them and for the church.”
Murray noted in an interview with USA Radio Networks that the situation in Iraq is “particularly brutal” because of the number of children displaced by war in the last 12 months. Often middle class families, who only a year ago had their own homes and cars, are forced to live on charity in camps or in one bedroom of an apartment shared by multiple families.
From spending time on the ground in the region, Murray believes the U.S. strategy is flawed and exasperating the situation. “The continuation of the policies of minor intervention in the Middle East–only enough to cause chaos, but not to bring forth a solution to the problems–is going to give President Obama a legacy of more death, more destruction, more enslavement, and encouragement to the jihadists,” he said.
The Christian leader added:
We have mistaken democracy for freedom. We think bringing democracy to a place, brings freedom to a place. Democracy is only a process, it is not a state of freedom. As a result of that, in many cases, we have made the situation worse, particularly for the Christian population. They had freedom. They had freedom of religion. They had freedom of worship, and we brought in a form of democracy, a process, that stole that freedom of worship away from them.
The Christmas for Refugees program is already looking towards next year with plans to bring the joy of Christmas and the hope of the Gospel to as many children as the need requires and the donations of supporters will allow.