Apart from the fact that she is a refugee, Amal Osman is, in every other way, like a typical 14-year-old. She rolls her eyes when asked questions she doesn’t want to answer, speaks in monosyllables and seems permanently embarrassed by the presence of her family.
She opens up just a little when talking about school. “My favourite subject was maths. I was very good at it,” she says, her eyes fixed on the ground. “I miss school, especially my friends. In Syria I would play a lot, but here I am mostly at home helping my mother.”
On the subject of her imminent marriage to a 28-year-old fellow Syrian, however, she is silent.
“If we were in Syria and things were normal, it is 100 percent impossible that I would accept for her to get married,” insists her father, half apologetically, half defiantly, as Amal looks on, her face inscrutable. “She is too young.”
But they are not in Syria, and things are far from normal.
Along with around 1.5 million other Syrians, the Osmans are refugees in Lebanon, and with the UN-led Syrian Regional Response Plan less than 50 percent funded, they and thousands of others are being forced to make tough choices as they struggle to make ends meet.
With aid reduced across the board, and in decisions like the World Food Programme’s this summer to halve the value of their food vouchers, children are suffering the most.
According to a study by the Beirut-based Universite St Joseph, of the roughly 70,000 Syrian girls aged between 12 and 17 in Lebanon, around six percent are married, although this is likely to be an underestimate due to the prevalence of unregistered marriages.
Child marriage overwhelmingly affects girls; for Syrian boys, child labour is the bigger risk, and is relied on by refugees who are forbidden to work in Lebanon past the age of 16 if they want to claim aid.
For both, the effect is the same: robbing children of their right to an education, their ability to be protected from abuse, and their chance of having a decent job once older.
- Pray for Child refugees in Lebanon, many of whom face the loss of their childhood through needing to work or through child marriage. Pray that they will come to know healing, hope and restoration through the Love of Jesus.
- Pray for families facing impossible situations, and forced to make tough decisions for their children in order to survive. Pray that many will come to know the Father heart of God and His life and love.
- Pray for aid agencies and organisations working in Lebanon with refugees, that they will see the resources and money that they need coming in, enabling them to help more families and children who need it.
- Pray that government who have promised aid will fulfil that promise and help the needs of Syrian refugees.
Psalm 103 vs 13: “As a father has compassion for his children, so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.”