The Council of the heads of the Catholic Churches in Syria founded Caritas Syria in 1954.
At the beginning, Caritas work was very modest due to the fact that poverty rates were low in Syria and there was no big need for humanitarian aid. During the Iraqi war in 2003, Caritas provided assistance to Iraqi refugees, particularly in Aleppo and Hassakeh regions.
With the beginning of the war in Syria in March 2011, and to be able to face the growing needs among the Syrian society, Caritas began to expand to be able to reach the largest possible number of beneficiaries without discrimination between sect, doctrine or religion. The number of its offices, centres and staff (employees and volunteers) increased to cover six regions: Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, the Coastal Area, Hassakeh and Horan.
Through its various projects, Caritas Syria has offered different kinds of aid: food and basic items, education, elderlies support, psycho-social support for children and housing assistance, as the war has deprived most Syrians of any source of income.
Syria’s humanitarian crisis has produced over 6.5 million refugees in neighbouring countries. The number of victims of this fratricidal war has reached more than 400 000, but the figures do not reflect the real cost of the war. Nearly 12 million Syrians are in need, and more than 6 million people have fled the conflict and still are internally displaced.
Caritas Syria works in partnership with existing religious communities as it also cooperates with Shiite and Sunnite humanitarian organizations, in order to reach the maximum number of people in need. Within the Caritas network, Caritas Syria collaborates with: Caritas Germany, Caritas Austria, Caritas Belgium, Caritas England and Wales (CAFOD), Catholic Organisation for Relief and Development Aid (CORDAID), Trócaire, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Caritas Spain, Caritas Italiana, Secours Catholique (Caritas France), Caritas Switzerland, Caritas Poland, Caritas Japan, Caritas Korea, Development and Peace (Caritas Canada), the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF) and Caritas Internationalis. Caritas Syria’s partners outside the Caritas network include: AED, Barnabas Fund, Solidarietà Internazionale Trinitaria, Stockholm Diocese and Oecumene Netherlands.
The Syrian capital suffers from long electricity cuts and gas and oil shortages. People have no means of heating during these cold winter days. What makes the situation catastrophic however is a water crisis.
Caritas Internationalis is renewing its call for peace in Syria. Caritas is calling for an immediate end to the conflict, that humanitarian aid reaches those in need and that the lives of civilians are protected.
Pope Francis met with Church workers on the crisis in Syria and Iraq 29 September in the Vatican. There were representatives of 40 Catholic aid agencies and Churches engaged there in humanitarian operations, including Caritas organisations.
Nowhere is the level of destruction in Syria more evident than in the city of Homs. One of the first theatres of war between government and rebel forces, the sprawling, ancient metropolis has been turned into a post-apocalyptic landscape.