Loading
Papal agency working to help displaced Syrians
A shell lays in the middle of the street in Homs, Syria, a remnant of the heavy attack leveled on the city 11 June 2012. Credit: UN Photo/David Manyua.
A shell lays in the middle of the street in Homs, Syria, a remnant of the heavy attack leveled on the city 11 June 2012. Credit: UN Photo/David Manyua.
Facebook Twitter Google+ Pinterest Addthis

.- Catholic Near East Welfare Association is working with local Churches in and around Syria to help refugees and those who have been displaced by the country's civil war, now beginning its third year.

“Our concern is not just for the Christian community, but for all people who are caught in the middle; the vast majority of people in Syria, as in any part of the world, just want peace,” Michael La Civita, the association's communications director, told CNA March 18.

“They want to get back to normal, to rear their families, and cope as best they can, and of course this makes it quite difficult for them, because the violence is just getting worse and worse.”

The Syrian conflict marked its second anniversary last week. On March 15, 2011, demonstrations sprang up nationwide, protesting the rule of Bashar al-Assad, Syria's president and leader the country's Ba'ath Party.

In April of that year, the Syrian army began to deploy to put down the uprisings, firing on protesters. Since then, the violence has morphed into a civil war.

United Nation's estimates show that 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict. More than 1 million refugees have flooded into Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, and Iraq, and inside Syria another estimated 2.5 million are internally displaced.

Catholic Near East Welfare Association works through local Churches to help the poor and partners with the Jesuits, Armenian Catholics, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, and Melkite Greek Catholics.

“They come to us with needs, let us know what they need, and we provide them with the resources, whether its food, gear for children or schools,” La Civita said.

The group helps internally displaced people in Syria, those who have been forced out of their homes. These families are mostly from Homs and Aleppo, in the north and west of the country.

“They lived in the older quarters, and now they're either in the suburbs or they've fled to a place called the valley of Christians, which is still in the hands of the government and is reasonably secure,” he explained.

The Association has worked with a Jesuit priest to help some 1000 Christian families from Homs who lost all their belongings.

“We provided them with emergency relief supplies – food and water, emergency relief kits, cooking oil, rice, things of that nature, sanitary napkins, what people need when they're flushed out of their homes and they have nothing.”

“We've been providing a lot of displaced children with winter clothing, and school supplies and books. These are children mostly from Homs who have been displaced, and the Jesuits and Paulist Fathers have set up temporary schools so these kids would not lose, despite the war, a year in their education,” said La Civita.

The agency is also helping with refugees who have fled Syria altogether, notably at the town of Qaa in Lebanon, which is less than seven miles from Syria, and less than 35 from Homs.

Qaa's parish priest, Father Elian Nasrallah, serves the Greek Catholic community there. La Civita recounted that many Christian families have fled there, and are being joined now by Muslims as well.

“We've been assisting them with everything from classes for children to providing counselling for kids suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, providing wool blankets, mattresses, food, detergent – again, emergency relief.”

Fr. Nasrallah's family supports a medical clinic, where the papal agency has been providing help so that the wounded can be cared for.

La Civita explained that Catholic Near East Welfare Association does not work in the large refugee camps, but rather works for and through eastern Churches, both Catholic and Orthodox.

Most Christians in Syria who have fled their homes turn to their family networks for help, or Christian institutions, who in turn receive assistance from the agency.

 The group, founded in 1926 by Pius XI, is a registered charity in the US and Canada, and is an agency of the Holy See. Those who want to financially assist Catholic Near East Welfare Association can donate at cnewa.org.

La Civita said prayers for peace in Syria are needed as well.

“It's not black and white there; the rebels aren't necessarily all good guys or bad, and nor is the regime. There's a lot of grey,” he explained.

The Syrian rebels are divided among secularists who support a Western-style democracy, and Islamists who may impose sharia law on the nation.

“Any increase in ammunition” he said, will make things more difficult for the Christians in Syria, as well as the Alawites, Druze, and Shi'ites, all of whom are religious minorities there.

The European Union has levied an arms embargo against Syria, but some are calling for it to be lifted. Both Russia and Iran are believed to be arming the Syrian government, and recently both the UK and France have indicated a desire to arm the rebels.

Tags: Violence, Syria Conflict, Catholic aid

Ads by AdsLiveMedia(What's this?)

* The number of messages that can be online is limited. CNA reserves the right to edit messages for content and tone. Comments and opinions expressed by users do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of CNA. CNA will not publish comments with abusive language, insults or links to other pages

RESOURCES »

Ads by Google (What's this?)
Ads by Google

Featured Videos

Syrian Refugee, Sara, 14, Before Meeting Pope
Syrian Refugee, Sara, 14, Before Meeting Pope
Ebola orphans thousands of children in West Africa
One year after Haiyan: Philippines rebuilds homes, lives
An Indian contribution to the Vatican's Synod on the Family
Christ Cathedral CNA video Sept 2014
Alejandro Bermudez of CNA accepts ice bucket challenge
'The Real Albania,' remembering those who fled
Pope Francis in Albania, "one of the most important visits of the post-communist era in Albania"
Pope Francis greets paralyzed man who risked all to see him
Franciscans on the banks of the Tiber in Rome, working for the New Evangelization
Pilgrimage from Czech Republic to Assisi and Rome for intentions
Testimony of young Indian who met Pope in Korea
Preparations of the Closing Mass of 6th Asian Youth Day
Missionary of Charity, Korea
Testimony of Christian Love during Pope's Visit to Korea
Religious Sisters in South Korea react to Pope Francis kissing a baby
Warm atmosphere during Holy Mass at Daejeon World Cup Stadium
Images inside Pope Francis flight to South Korea
The tombs of the early Christians
Missionaries of Africa, called "the White Fathers"
Nov
28

Liturgical Calendar

November 28, 2014

Friday of the Thirty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

All readings:
Today »
This year »

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Lk 21:29-33

Gospel
Date
11/28/14
11/27/14
11/25/14

Daily Readings


First Reading:: Rev 20: 1-4, 11-21:2
Gospel:: Lk 21: 29-33

Saint of the Day

St. Romuald »

Saint
Date
11/28/14

Homily of the Day

Lk 21:29-33

Homily
Date
11/28/14
11/27/14
11/25/14