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After Texas Withdraws From Refugee Program, Syrian Elder Says Children Are Most Affected

Krystina Martinez/KERA News

It’s been a week since Gov. Greg Abbott announced that Texas would withdraw from the federal Refugee Resettlement Program. The state took in 7,000 refugees in the last year and about 900 of those refugees have come from Syria.

Mary Mikhael, a Presbyterian elder with the National Evangelical Synod of Syria & Lebanon (NESSL), does much of her refugee work in both countries. Her group provides supplies in Syria and educates children in Lebanon’s refugee camps. Mikhael was in North Texas this week to talk to refugees and the churches helping them settle here.

Interview Highlights: Mary Mikhael…

…On her first visit to a refugee camp:

“The first time I visited one camp in Lebanon, I saw faces of children walking in the mud outside the tent where they were living. Inside the tent, [there was] a pile of something to sleep on. I think for two weeks, I was not able to sleep properly.

Life in the camps are miserable, and if you see the children, it breaks your heart. There was a study that showed that 5.5 million Syrian children are affected in a variety of ways, with mental trauma, living without parents, living without schooling, and being recruited, so the greatest tragedy hits the children. We’re talking three generations will be lost unless the whole world cooperates to bring this tragedy to an end.”  

Credit Molly Evans/KERA News
Texas has taken in more refugees than any other state in the last year.

…On whether the United States is doing enough to help the refugee crisis:

“USA is probably the greatest country in the world, probably in size the biggest in the world. You have all the resources that are needed. I feel saddened when Syrian refugees are being singled out and treated less than others because they come from a war-torn country. Nobody runs away by choice, they run away because of the danger they face on their life.”

…On what she would say to leaders who don’t want to accept Syrian refugees:

“I believe [the U.S.] is full of people with great minds and great hearts and great spirits. I just want to appeal to anybody who can make the decision to treat the Syrian as a human being, with sympathy and with love because they need it. I leave this to the person’s conscious and to his stand with God.”  

Mary Mikhael is a Presbyterian elder with the National Evangelical Synod of Syria & Lebanon (NESSL).