“I wish Syria would get back on its feet!”

Jordanian native Shoboul (centre) with his Syrian refugee friends.

Reading the newspapers in Jordan, one sees stories every day about how many Syrians have again crossed the border to Jordan. According to today’s paper, 67 refugees had entered the country within 48 hours. After emergency personnel had tended to the wounded, the refugees were taken to the safety of a refugee camp. All of them face a new and unfamiliar life in Jordan. Though geographically they are not far from home, they are, however, one whole war apart.

This coverage has been ongoing for over four years. In the articles, local ministers aren’t indignantly planning to deny refugees’ access to Jordan. Those escaping violence cannot be denied their basic right to a safe life. But one and a half million Syrians are surely straining the country’s resources over their limits. Without outside assistance, Jordan could not take care of its refugees.

Now, that assistance is alarmingly in danger of decreasing.

Statistics to some, friends to Shoboul

My co-worker, Shoboul, lives on the Syrian border, in the village of Fal Shibab. He remembers when, in March 2011, rumours of unrest in the nearby village of Daran started to circle. Protests had started when the police had detained and tortured two young men after they had painted revolutionary writings on the walls of their school. The people, however, no longer tolerated the arbitrary actions of the authorities which for so long had been the norm.

During the spring of 2011, the situation began to escalate. Syrians began to flood into Shoboul’s home town. The sound of gunfire and explosions echoed from across the border. Many of the comers were successful farmers from the region of Horan, which stretches to both sides of the border. They had been forced to leave their possessions on the other side and were now poor refugees – statistics to some, but friends to Shoboul. The situation was scary. Jordanian forces were securing the border, but shots were fired across and some villagers got wounded.

Now, after four years, grenades still sporadically fly across the border – by accident or on purpose.

Shoboul laments the fate of these people: “We had a good relationship with them. They are good people. Still they invite me into their homes just like before the war, even though now they are refugees living in poverty in a foreign country.”

Mission: a future and hope for refugee children

“Syria is no more. There are only a number of fighting groups”, Shoboul ponders, missing the good old Syria. Even though a political solution seems impossible, hope for peace lives in Syria. The farmers of Horan wish to grow their crops in peace, support themselves and live peacefully with their neighbours. They hope to one day show their hospitality to Shoboul in their own homes in Syria.

The Jordanian society has been very open to Syrian refugees, despite the costs. Attitudes have remained positive, but there is fear of them hardening. Syrians snatch jobs by accepting lower wages, and people are getting tired of the refugee habitation which is becoming less and less temporary as the war continues.

Shoboul sees education and psychosocial support essential for the refugee children: “Our task as the Finn Church Aid team is to build a sustainable future and give hope to the refugee children and youth, so that they can persevere through this conflict to which no solution is in sight.”

Shoboul hopes that peace can be established in Syria and the country can get back on its feet once more. In the meantime, Shoboul can only continue his precious work helping the refugees.

Text and photo: Olli Pitkänen