Broken art:

Pictures by Syrian refugee children

All children’s drawings look the same. Stick-thin parents. Triangle-and-square houses. Cheerful colours. Perspectives that shift and bend like reflections in bubbles. But, when you look a little closer, some children’s drawings contain within them more pain, more of the things you and I are most afraid of, than any painting by Goya. Some children’s drawings are a shame on our world and a call to do something.

These pictures were drawn by primary-age children in a BMS-supported learning centre north of Beirut. They show the children’s responses to the exercise: draw your home in Syria. That’s where these little boys and girls are from. They are some of the million and more Syrian refugees now living in Lebanon.

A Green tank fires tennis balls at a house while the house is also being bombed

Their pictures of home look at first like any children’s art: bright, cheerful, freehand masterpieces, just waiting to be magnetted to proud fridges. But these drawings aren’t for fun. They are part of what BMS World Mission and Lebanese Christians have been doing to help the traumatised children we’re educating deal with one of the bloodiest civil wars the world has ever seen.

Look at them.

The olive-green tank, firing little tennis-ball shells at a house in which a family hides, the planes spitting missiles like drops of blood. Is that a baby or a doll in the father’s arms? The tears you almost fail to notice, pouring from the faces in another. The aeroplanes (or are they drones?) and their tell-tale dotted lines that seem to go straight through pencil-thin walls. These are not pictures of play-acting or the children’s favourite programmes on TV. They’re memories of trauma in primary colours. When you look, actually look, it’s almost too much. But keep going. They have to.

Drawing of a before and after scene, the before being of a house while the after is of a violent black scribble

The house on the right, with the sunflower-yellow roof and schoolhouse-red walls, is labelled “before”, twinned with a violent scribble of black (and only black), which is called “after”. One picture that we cannot show you here depicts a person being shot. Another has no details, shows no forms, is just a simple mat of Rothko black – a little boy’s remembrance of home.

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Drawing of a playground by a Syrian Child, some Arabic up in the left hand corner translates as "I miss my friends."

And then some respite. The playground scene. Seems happy enough until you translate the Arabic and talk to the child, when it becomes perhaps the hardest in the whole collection. “I miss my friends.” Miss playing on the slide and swings.

It is too easy to tell ourselves that there is nothing we can do for these children. But that is a lie, meant by a selfish society to make us complacent, meant by the Enemy to discourage us. The fact is, you have already made a difference, and you continue to.
You are paying salaries for teachers in two learning centres, where 260 refugee children are getting an education. You’re helping our Lebanese partners share training and best practice with teachers, and you’re providing snacks and hygiene packs to kids who otherwise might be distracted by hunger, nits and sickness. You’re building an extra classroom in the north of the country and helping local Christians who started this work to provide a safe and stable space for children to learn and have a childhood for years to come.

These children have seen things most of us would never recover from. They’ve fled city after city, playing hopscotch on a burning map to get here. Your gifts and your prayers are giving them new colours and new memories to draw.

Picture of a house with humans crying inside while a plane flies over dropping bombs.
Picture drawn by a Syrian Child of a house being bombed

This article originally appeared in Engage. Hit the button on the right to subscribe to the BMS magazine for more great articles about the life-transforming work you’re involved in across the world.

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Posted on: October 12 2017

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