Syrian refugees: Solidarity in song

Syrian refugees: Solidarity in song

Mohammed sings to refugee children on the bus heading home from our Child-Friendly Space in Lebanon. (Photo: 2016 Jon Warren/World Vision)

It's all right to feel, even when it hurts.

Many refugee children don't know how to cope with traumatic memories. Meet Mohammed, who leads children in song at our Child-Friendly Space in Lebanon to help them learn how to express themselves.

He's expressing his own emotions, too.

***

We heard “the singer” before we saw him.

Songs came out of Mohammed as naturally as water bubbling up from a spring—but louder.

A 33-year-old Syrian refugee, Mohammed leads activities for a group of refugee children in a World Vision Child-Friendly Space in Lebanon.    

He sings in Arabic, with pounding rhythms and bent notes like an aching cry. I didn’t know what he was saying, but I understood everything. Mohammed’s voice was so full of raw emotion that somehow it both soothed and stimulated the children he was teaching. Children and adults, we felt it: joy, defiance, heartbreak, grief.

His singing said: “You’re alive. Breathe deep and know it. It’s all right to feel even when it hurts.”

We should have called him “the healer.” Children who were uprooted by violence and had lost nearly everything they loved joined in his passionate singing. They were better for it; relaxed, refreshed, energized.

Mohammed’s great gift to the children is a sense of connection and wellbeing in the moment.

“I try to help them,” he says. “It’s easier for children to forget [painful experiences]. Teachers can’t forget.”

For refugees who’ve lost family members, their home, job, community—their country, in fact—there’s a deep need for remembrance, and for forgetting, Mohammed told me.

He has thought it through, and states matter-of-factly:

“If a child is 6, he was 1 [when his family fled Syria] and he doesn’t remember. 

“If he is 10, he left at age 5; Syria is not a real memory, it’s a dream he’s heard about.

“If he’s 15, he’ll never forget.” 

Near to tears, he added: “How can I forget the trees and vineyards I planted with my own hands? They are gone.”

Apple trees and grape vines grown from raw shoots to flower and fruit—they are not the worst of his losses. Mohammed lost his brother, a house and a business, a close-knit community, and a rewarding job as a teacher. He suffers from migraines—that’s new since he became a refugee—and his son, who was born in Lebanon, has asthma that’s aggravated by poor living conditions.

It’s laughable, really. We were both crying over his apple trees.

That’s the funny thing about memories and emotions.  

Memories haunt Mohammed, and so he sings. Not to overcome them, but to draw strength from their tenderness.


After so much loss, join us in helping to provide basic necessities to refugee families and improve their living conditions away from home. Make a one-time or monthly donation today.

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