Available in French By Laura Sheahen, Caritas Communications Officer A black pupil within azure and indigo swirls, the ‘ayn’ is supposed to ward off envy and the evil eye. These round, blue glass objects are ubiquitous in the Middle East. It’s hard to imagine who would envy the three bedraggled children I’m talking to in eastern Lebanon. Or how much worse their luck could get. Every day, the kids—a boy aged 10, his seven-year-old sister, and a girl aged 9—take a paid car alone from the refugee area where they’re living to the city of Zahle. All afternoon, they roam the streets of Zahle, trying to sell as many ayn as they can. The children are Syrian refugees, part of an exodus that has poured into Lebanon and other countries since spring 2011, but especially in July 2012. Here in Lebanon, some refugee families are living with host families or […]
Since 2011, violence in Syria has forced thousands of people from their homes. In mid-July 2012, the conflict worsened rapidly and a huge wave of refugees poured into Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. On July 24, Father Simon Faddoul, the head of Caritas Lebanon, spoke with Caritas Internationalis about the plight of the new refugees in his country. The situation has deteriorated rapidly in the past week. Can you tell us what’s happening now? The past five days have been extremely dangerous to the people of Syria. People are fleeing the war and coming to Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Here in Lebanon, it’s been like a human flood over the border from Damascus. In 24 hours we had, at one time last week, over 15,000 people enter at one legal border crossing. If you count all the rest who come in other ways, it’s far more. They’re arriving in cars, trucks, buses, and [...]
As violence in Syria worsens, Caritas continues to aid refugees as they stream into the neighbouring countries of Jordan and Lebanon. In Jordan, Caritas is distributing food and essential items like diapers to hundreds of Syrian families in Mafraq and Zarqa. Caritas Jordan also arranged a free one-week medical campaign for Syrian refugees to provide blood pressure, sugar level, and ultrasound tests, in addition to consultations and medication. In Lebanon, many Syrian refugees are living with host families who are already struggling to make ends meet. There are concerns that Lebanese communities hosting Syrian refugees have reached their limit and cannot absorb more. In northern Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley, job opportunities are already inadequate and living spaces are scarce. The addition of tens of thousands of Syrians seeking work has only increased the pressure on these areas. Caritas Lebanon is providing food parcels with rice, lentils, beans, tuna and more to [...]
Chaldean Catholic Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo in Syria and head of Caritas Syria has been in France for meetings with Secours Catholique (Caritas France). He spoke to François Tcherkessoff. Here is an edited version of the interview (translated by Caritas Internationalis). What does the Church leadership say about the recent events? The three patriarchs of Damascus from the Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Syrian churches urge dialogue, an end to the violence, a reform of the State to allow greater freedom, democratic elections. Some Christians fear the unknown with the possible rise of religious fundamentalism as in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt and so defend the regime.
The UN says 108 people have been killed in the Syrian town of Houla. Nearly half of them were children. Witnesses and survivors told the UN that most of the victims died as a result of summary executions. The Pope has expressed great pain as a result of the massacre. On Tuesday, Fr Federico Lombardi, the Director of the Holy See Press Office, issued the following statement on the tragedy in Houla, Syria. It said, “The recent massacre in Houla, where more than one hundred people, including many children, lost their lives, has distressed and worried the Holy Father and the entire Catholic community, as well as the international community, who have unanimously condemned the incident. “In renewing its call for the cessation of all forms of violence, the Holy See urges the parties concerned and the international community to spare no effort to resolve the crisis through dialogue and […]
By Caritas Internationalis and Caritas Jordan staff “I like to help others,” said Madleen Qandah, a 21 years old mathematics student in Mafraq. She is volunteering with Caritas Jordan as it aids Syrian refugees fleeing violence in their own country. “I just put myself in the refugees’ shoes and treat them how I would like to be treated in the same situation,” she said. Around 500 refugees arrive a day in Jordan according to various relief agencies. The Jordanian government says the number of Syrian refugees in the country has surpassed 110,000 people. The influx of Syrians is putting huge pressures on the Jordanian economy and housing capacity. The country is also hosting 450,000 Iraqi refugees according to the government, who fled the conflict in Iraq that began in 2003. Working mainly in Mafraq, Caritas Jordan teams have provided 500 families with aid such as heaters, bedding, towels, plastic mats, […]
Selim* has been working for Caritas Syria in Aleppo for three months helping people with food and other aid. He says Aleppo has been hit hard by the economic crisis in Syria. The conflict and international sanctions have led to high levels of inflation and unemployment across the country. Caritas helps poor families and especially the elderly with food. Programmes are just getting underway, and so far they have helped 120 families and 45 elderly. Selim says Caritas is also able to send aid to the conflict-hit city of Homs. The city has been a centre for the opposition. Heavy fighting over control of the city between the opposition and the government began twelve months ago and climaxed in March 2012 with a major government offensive.
By Patrick Nicholson The Catholic Church in Syria has made this powerful statement on the crisis there, where daily violence continues to have a deadly toll and more people are crossing the borders to neighbouring countries. The statement is in French. It’s calling for an end to the violence and especially all forms of intimidation such as kidnappings and assassinations. It supports the humanitarian mission of UN Envoy Kofi Annan and especially the need to demilitarise the streets. The Syrican church says in the statement (my translation), “The violence has gone beyond the limit and we can only forcefully urge wise minds to come to their senses and abondon all that is destroying the people and the country.” The Syrian church is saying it stands in solidarity with all Syrians as they seek a dignified life. It supports the reform process, the need for a democratic and pluralistic society and […]
An uprising against the Syrian government and the President Bashar al-Assad has left 9000 people dead since fighting broke out in March 2011. Tens of thousands of people have fled their homes. Many have sought safety in neighbouring countries such as Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, others remain in Syria. Conditions within Syria and for the refugees who have fled are bleak. They need food, shelter and medical assistance. Children need educational support and adults don’t have access to employment. Caritas staff members are providing aid both within Syria and to those refugees who have fled in Jordan and Lebanon. Caritas Turkey is also willing to respond. Pope Benedict’s Holy Thursday Mass collection went to Caritas Syria for humanitarian assistance to Syrian’s forced from their homes because of the conflict. "Particularly in Syria, may there be an end to bloodshed and an immediate commitment to the path of respect, dialogue and reconciliation, as called for [...]
Refugees continue to flee conflict in Syria to Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Meanwhile, the Vatican has announced that Pope Benedict’s Holy Thursday Mass collection in St. John’s basilica will go to Caritas Syria for humanitarian assistance to Syrian’s forced from their homes because of the conflict. In the latest update from Caritas Jordan, staff say the number of registered Syrians with them has reached 900 families in Mafraq and Ramtha, comprising 4500-5000 individuals. About 20 individuals are registering daily with Caritas; some are legally staying in Jordan while others managed to jump over the fence and got into the Jordanian territories that way. After carrying out a distribution of household items in Ramtha and Mafraq two weeks ago, Caritas managed in the past three days to distribute blankets, heaters, bed linens, quilts, towels, plastic mats, sanitary pads, mattresses and jerry cans to 200 Syrian families in Mafraq. This batch targeted […]
By Patrick Nicholson Syrian refugees continue to flee into neighbouring Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon. They’re trying to escape fighting between government and opposition forces that began last March. Caritas members in the region are looking to respond to the growing needs of the refugees. Living conditions are difficult. Hamid* brought his wife and children from Tal Kalakh in Syria to Wadi Khaled just across the border in northern Lebanon as soon as fighting started in March 2011. He said he feared that the situation would go from “bad to very bad” because of sectarianism and thought it safer to leave while he could. His family of six have lived for six months in one of the rooms of an old abandoned school building. Fifteen families live in the school. The rooms are tiny, damp and cold. His wife couldn’t cope so she went home at one point. “I would have […]
“The situation is bad,” said Fatima*. She had arrived from Syria into Lebanon that morning with five of her seven children. They’d fled from Kosayr, a suburb of Homs that’s currently undergoing heavy shelling as fighting continues between the government and opposition forces. Her husband stayed on while her teenage boys were stopped from leaving. She and the rest of the children had walked two hours across the border. They’re staying in a bare concrete storeroom, normally used for farm equipment. The refugees brought nothing with them. Snow still covers the mountains of the Bekaa Valley. It’s cold and windy in the remote rural border area. There are two mats on the floor of the room and a crate of empty cola bottles. There is no heating. Caritas Lebanon is carrying out an aid distribution in Bekaa and gives them a box of food, with pasta, rice, oil and other bare [...]
By Patrick Nicholson *Mohamed’s son was born a few weeks ago during the battle for Bab Amro, a suburb of the Syrian city of Homs. “The baby was delivered by a dentist,” says the father, in a makeshift clinic that previously been a neighbour’s home. “There wasn’t any medical equipment,” he says. Locals had given whatever cotton wool and bandages they could find. The dentist was mainly treating shrapnel wounds that day, but babies don’t wait for wars to end before being born. Bab Amro has seen the worst of the conflict in Syria since an uprising began in March 2011. Life there during the siege for Mohamed, his wife, three-year old daughter and new-born son was one of daily survival. “There was bombing night and day,” says Mohamed. Water and food had run out. There was no electricity. Mohamed would try to find water in the abandoned houses of neighbours who [...]
Caritas Lebanon is aiding Syrian refugee families who have arrived in Lebanon throughout the past few months. A team from the Caritas Lebanon organised a two-day fact finding mission to the north-east of Lebanon in February. The team included staff from the Caritas Lebanon Migrant Centre and Caritas Baalbeck. Across the border with Syria in the Bekaa valley, two villages Qaa and Jdeide are currently hosting twelve Christian Syrian families from Homs and Rable. All of the refugees escaped Syria and arrived from five months to one week ago. They said Caritas was the first NGO to visit them. They did not plan to flee into Lebanon. But because their homes were shelled or because one of their relatives or friends were killed, they got scared and escaped as soon as they could. As a result, most of them came with nothing except the clothes they were wearing at the time. Now, they have found [...]
As violence in Syria continues, thousands of its people have streamed into the neighbouring countries of Lebanon and Jordan. “Syrians are approaching Caritas offices on a daily basis, asking for help,” according to a recent Caritas Jordan field report. “Every day, there are new Syrians crossing the border into Jordan.” Governments, charities, and host families are struggling to find housing, food and school space for the refugees. In Lebanon, “the majority of refugees are staying in host families that are already poor and living in difficult conditions,” says Najla Chahda of the Caritas Lebanon Migrant Center. “As a result, many hygiene problems are appearing.” In both countries, Caritas is distributing essential items to refugee families. The Caritas Lebanon Migrant Center has given out blankets, underwear, baby items, and hygiene kits to thousands of people. Caritas Jordan is coordinating the distribution of milk and has started giving aid parcels to Syrian families [...]