An Exodus from Syria (@KatieHarrisonTF)

I’m just back from the Syrian border where I travelled with Tearfund to meet refugees who are fleeing the bombs, rockets and shootings that are now commonplace in Syrian towns.

Credit: Eleanor Bentall/Tearfund.

Credit: Eleanor Bentall/Tearfund.

In Lebanon, I met men, women and children who had fled Homs.  They told me of dreadful things happening to them and to their families and of their fears for the family members they had to leave behind.

In Jordan, I met people who had come from Damascus.  Many of them had tried so hard to stay in their homeland, but in the last two months they had seen women being raped in the streets and knew it was no longer safe for them to try to bring up their children there.

Horrific acts of violence and callousness haunt their memories.  One five-year-old boy struggled to smile or to respond to his parent’s words of endearment.  He looks like he’s sulking until you realise that he’s in constant shock.  His mum told me that he walks in his sleep.

We heard stories of possessions being taken from refugees as they fled the country.  At the checkpoints, jewellery, money, children’s toys and even blankets – which they desperately need because it’s bitterly cold at night and many of them have to sleep in tents or in bare unheated rooms – are taken from them.

One woman told me that, when she and her family arrived at the checkpoint, only women and children were allowed through.  Her husband was held back and, since that day a year ago, she hasn’t seen him.

She doesn’t know whether he’s dead or alive.

And now they’re wandering. She and her seven children are moving from place to place, looking for shelter, food and warmth and not finding it.

It’s an age-old story, and one we see in the book of Exodus.  The agony of wandering, of longing for a homeland, of yearning for safety and comfort, is demonstrated in the experiences of Moses and the community who travel with him.

And, like the Syrians, all of human life is on display.  The generosity and kindnesses of people with next to nothing sharing what little they have.

The frustrations and disputes that fester when there are few resources and everyone feels cold, tired and dirty because they can’t use a proper loo or wash their clothes.

And the longing for connection. The community in Exodus eventually does pull together and build a future with each other.

And among the Syrian refugees too, there is a compelling sense of family.  Mobile phones have made a huge difference to the experience of wandering, and now people are able to find their families and meet up with each other in refugee camps, groups of tents or among disused empty properties in towns.

It means people can find each other, and reaffirm their sense of belonging.

And it removes the hope that those whom they can’t find will one day return.  Because it’s possible to contact each other by phone, it means that when you don’t hear from someone for a while, they’re probably never going to be able to speak to you again.

And so the mourning and grieving is continuous.  It isn’t held off for a later date when things are better and people can try to trace relatives.  They are already doing their own tracing and if there’s no response, it means it’s bad news.

Some things are easier now, thanks to technology and particularly digital connections.

But the human experience which drives us to use these technologies to solve these problems remains the same.

Just as in Exodus, so too today the Syrians have to face uncertainty as they hope, faintly, to return some day to the homeland they love so much.

I hope and pray that they too one day find a future that is better than their past, and that their land of milk and honey is not far away.

About katieharrisonTF