Syria’s humanitarian crisis is catastrophic. Born of Bashar al-Assad’s enduring brutality, the deliberate slaughter strategy of Russia’s Vladimir Putin and the disinterest of Western leaders, more than 250,000 Syrians have been killed and over 11 million dispossessed in the five-year civil war. This bloodshed fuels ISIS terrorism and broader chaos in the Middle East.
Yet there is hope. While governments watch Syria burn, non-governmental organizations are saving innocent lives. Here’s what three U.S. charities — one secular, one Christian, and one Islamic — are doing to staunch the bloody misery.
Mercy Corps is a secular group that provides critical resources to dispossessed civilians in disaster zones. While the organization offers Syrian refugees basic provisions such as food and blankets, it also focuses on long-term efforts to improve living conditions — most notably, in Jordan (which has accepted around 1 million refugees). In addition to its clean-water programs in refugee camps and its opportunities for children to pursue happiness, Mercy Corps explained its mission to Opportunity Lives as “helping Jordanians and Syrians collaborate on important community projects and strengthen their ability to peacefully resolve urgent issues that arise over scarce resources such as water, housing, jobs, schools and basic social services.”
Mercy Corps says its collaborative programs have “yielded significant investments in communities, including the construction of bigger and improved classrooms, playgrounds and health clinics.” It’s good strategy: Lebanon’s difficult history of Palestinian refugee integration proves that dissected communities foster human suffering and political instability. Equally important, Mercy Corps’ long-range focus recognizes the sad reality that it will be years before Syria’s people can safely return home.
Next up, Islamic Relief-USA (IRUSA). If anyone questions the decency of American Muslims, they should read IRUSA’s Syria factsheet. In 17 pages of statistics, the document outlines how IRUSA supporters have sustained nearly 4 million people. But the range of IRUSA programs is similarly stunning. To date, IRUSA has provided more than 1.8 million medical treatments, 147,000 food kits, 84,000 hygiene kits (remember, refugee transit/camp conditions are often awful), nearly 50,000 blankets, 84,002 winter kits, as well as supplies for more than 225 medical facilities. At the same time, like Mercy Corps, IRUSA is working in Lebanon (which has accepted nearly 1.5 million Syrian refugees) and Jordan. In these nations, IRUSA efforts include advanced medical treatments and trauma counseling.
Then there’s the Christian-Evangelical World Vision. This organization has provided support to nearly 3 million Syrians, including many children. Spokeswoman Lauren Fisher explained the mission to Opportunity Lives. “Motivated by our faith in Jesus Christ,” World Vision serves “all people regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender as an expression of [God’s identity-unconditional] love.”
World Vision continues to support hundreds of thousands of Syrians, including on the challenging migrant transit routes from Syria into Europe. Still, it has a special emphasis on expanding access to medical services, safe areas and child-centric items for the most vulnerable of all: Syrian children.
Of course, many other American charities are doing extraordinary work in Syria. And like the three charities above they are doing so in dangerous places — including areas proximate to Daesh/ISIS forces. Their personnel know that if captured, they would receive the same brutality imposed on previous Daesh hostages.
Here, consider the ongoing work of Mercy-USA in Syria’s northern city of Aleppo — now under blitz by Assad and Russian forces. In recent months, witnessing what the Obama Administration apparently could not: that a Russian-led siege of Aleppo was imminent, Mercy-USA bolstered food stockpiles in the city. The charity also maintains a dedicated women and children’s health clinic that serves around 750 patients every month.
And U.S. support for Syrians doesn’t begin and end abroad. Contemplate, for example, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which leads political advocacy on behalf of Syrian refugees. Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, the conference’s president, explains why: “Regardless of their religious affiliation or national origin, these refugees are all human persons—made in the image of God, bearing inherent dignity, and deserving our respect and care and protection by law from persecution.”
In 2016, Americans have understandable doubts about our rightful place and role in the world. Yet these three charities remind us why we should not fear our national reflection. Today, in every American color and creed, our humanitarianism remains alive and well, and truly exceptional.
Tom Rogan is a Senior Contributor for Opportunity Lives and writes for National Review. He is a panelist on The McLaughlin Group and a senior fellow at the Steamboat Institute. Follow him on Twitter @TomRtweets.