September 25, 2012
Pope Benedict XVI said he had gone to Lebanon and to the Middle East as a “pilgrim of peace”. Over the next three days, he would return to the same theme of peace in the troubled region in every speech he delivered. President of Caritas Lebanon Father Simon Faddoul, reflecting on the visit, said, “The Pope was a messenger of peace to an area that is in a state of continuous war. His presence in Lebanon could bring conflicting parties closer.” The Pope came to deliver the Apostolic Exhortation - the fruit of the Synod for the Middle East. “In this Exhortation, the Pope invites the Christians to act as citizens of the land by living out their citizenship fully,” said Fr Faddoul. “And invites the Muslims to accept differences in multi-religious societies.” The pope's visit served as a showcase for Lebanon, which for years was a model of peaceful coexistence and religious [...]
By Shahera Khader Maria Abou Diman, a 28-year-old social worker in charge of Caritas Lebanon’s center in Taalabaya (Bekaa Valley), sits outside her office on a plastic white chair. Around her are faces filled with anxiety, hunger and exhaustion. An 80-year-old woman stands directly beside her. She hands Abou Diman her I.D. Her hands, filled with rivers of deep wrinkles, are shaking uncontrollably. She pierces Abou Diman with her mournful eyes. “How can I help you?” Abou Diman asks the woman. “I need more blankets, please, my daughter is cold and hungry,” the woman said. Others crowd around Aboud Diman, telling her their own names and what they need. Abou Diman pulls a chair up for the old woman and motions for her to take a seat. The Caritas Lebanon migrant center’s social worker stands and wipes the drops of sweat off her forehead; she has been receiving Syrian refugees […]
August 10, 2012
Since 2011, violence in Syria has forced thousands of people to leave their homeland, with a huge wave of refugees pouring into Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. Caritas is giving refugees food, medical care, and emergency items.
Why are so many people fleeing Syria? A conflict between government and anti-government forces in Syria has escalated sharply since early 2011. Aerial bombardments, shooting on the streets, sniper attacks, and other types of violence have hurt thousands of Syrian civilians. Many Syrians were hiding in their homes for months, unable to work or go to school, before they decided to flee to other countries to escape the violence. Most Syrians remain in their country. Some have been displaced and face the same challenges that Syrian refugees abroad face. Caritas is providing food in Aleppo and Homs, mainly for displaced people. Where are the Syrian refugees going? The refugees are primarily fleeing to the neighbouring countries of Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Some Iraqi refugees who were living in Syria have now fled back to Iraq. Where do the refugees live? Some refugee families are living in apartments or old buildings, often crowding into very small [...]
As Syria refugees pour into Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon, Caritas is giving them food, medical care, and emergency aid. Ilham, a mother of five, described a harrowing day in her home city to Caritas Communications Officer Laura Sheahen. I have nothing to do with the military, I am a civilian. We’re from Bab Amr, in Homs. One day I wanted to go get milk. My neighbour Adnan said, “Don’t go, I’ll bring you milk. I’m afraid you’ll be killed.” The snipers shoot from a long distance. We don’t see the shooter, but he sees us. It was about 2 pm and Adnan was bringing the milk to me, two containers. A shooter was up in a building in a small window. He was shot. The bullet went through his arm to his heart. I went out to try to save Adnan. The person who shot him also shot me, to prevent me from reaching [...]
Available in French By Laura Sheahen, Caritas Communications Officer “We’d move from neighbour to neighbour to escape the bombing,” says Ahmed, a father of six from the Syrian city of Homs. As civil war in his country escalated, he watched buildings bombarded and people injured or killed. “There came a moment when I looked at my children and thought, ‘nothing matters but them.’ I knew we had to leave.” If they only had themselves to worry about, thousands of Syrian parents might take their chances and stay in their country even as bombs drop and snipers fire. “If it were not for my children, I would never have left Syria. I should be there,” says Ahmed. Instead, he took his family to Jordan. Ilham, an epileptic mother of six, was shot in the leg by a sniper. But for several months after, she remained in Syria. “I didn’t want to […]
Available in French Tens of thousands of people have fled Syria to escape bombardments and shooting. Now living in cramped, unsanitary conditions in neighbouring countries, some refugees are falling ill. Doctor Simon Kolanjian is a pediatrician who travels in a Caritas Lebanon mobile clinic to treat refugee children. He spoke with Caritas Communications Officer Laura Sheahen about what he’s seen since the clinic on wheels started in May 2012. How are Syrian refugee children doing? The children are malnourished. They come to us and they’re weak and thin. A lot of kids have diarrhea. The water isn’t clean. I tell them to boil it. We need to tell them how to use water. The infections go up in summer. We can’t keep giving them antibiotics if the water’s bad. We must address the root cause. There are also upper respiratory infections, lice, fungal infections. How many kids do you usually […]
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 […]
July 24, 2012
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 [...]
June 15, 2012
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.
May 30, 2012
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.