From North Carolina to Jordan, with love
Posted September 30, 2016
EDITOR'S NOTE: Ned and Marian Walsh of Johnston County traveled to Jordan, a country where he did missionary work as a young man, to aid, teach and share the stories of Syrian refugees – the "collateral damage" of that country's on-going civil war.
Ned Walsh shared his initial impressions in his own words.
Marian and I arrived at our small hotel in the old downtown section of the city of Amman, Jordan, this past Saturday night exhausted from our transatlantic flight via Paris, France.
We unpacked only the necessary items and headed straight for the shower and then to bed. Johnston County couple's quest puts human face on 'collateral damage'
At 5 a.m. we were abruptly awakened by the Muslim call to prayer from the multiple minarets in the area, all equipped with loudspeakers! It was a wake-up call no one could ignore.
Thus, on an early Sunday morning, we began our first day of work at the Collateral Repair Project's center located in one of Amman's poorest sections and home to many of the Syrian and Iraqi refugees who have fled their native countries fleeing the violence and wars which have decimated their countries and homes.
These refugees are a part of the 80 percent who have fled to the urban areas of the Middle East and have become invisible. The United Nations is largely responsible for assisting the 20 percent of refugees who make their way to the massive "tent cities" most often featured by the news media. In the cities, refugees are on their own.
Our first and most impactful encounters with these urban and almost forgotten refugees came as we attended two Collateral Repair Project staff seeking out three refugee families who had applied for the services.
We went into the most humble of dwellings and were warmly welcomed by these families who had left everything behind in Syria or Iraq to find refuge in Jordan. I had the opportunity to ask them why they had fled their homes, jobs and schools. The same answers came again and again: War, violence, sectarian divisions, kidnappings of family members, ISIS and the list goes on!
Marian and I could not weep and show our emotions in their presence. We withheld that for our private moments.
We wept, too, for the politicians back home in the United States and many of our own North Carolina neighbors who are allowing fear to prevent them from offering hope and solace to these struggling fellow human beings who are really just like all of us.
A second encounter came the next day as we drove through hectic, crowded streets to a section of Amman that is a refuge to almost 700 Sudanese who have fled the horrors of the war and genocide in Darfur.
The Collateral Repair Project distributed food vouchers on this day to Sudanese families who had qualified and been processed through CRP's system.
It was, to us, a disturbing scene. Two hundred Sudanese, mostly women with babies and small children were waiting, many hungry and some ill. Only about 100 had been approved for the vouchers, and that would be all that could be served! There was tension in the air as they pressed us in the noon heat for help.
I was able to find one young man who spoke good English. His story of escaping the war and genocide in Darfur was compelling. His loss of hope was telling. He said, "No one wants us! Even here we are prisoners!"
He did conclude by saying that thus far, the Collateral Repair Project has been the only organization that has given his people help.
In truth, all the refugees – Syrian, Iraqi, or Sudanese – once they depart Jordan, are forbidden to ever again return. This is a harsh reality that escapes none of them.