Category Archives: Middle East Conflict
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 him. The bullet went through my left thigh. I was lucky it didn’t hit the bone.
Some people came to help. I said, “Go to him first, he’s bleeding so much.” But the medical services are bad, no one could save him.
I hopped to other neighbours and they tied a bandage around my leg.
I kept hoping things would improve. But my house was bombarded three times. I slept in my clothes and headscarf because I was afraid we’d have to run out at night, or someone would come in.
We left for Damascus, but then bombardments began there. I thought, “It’s becoming too bad.” I was afraid my children would be killed. I realized we had to leave.
Now we live here in Jordan.
I have epilepsy, and so do three of my children. My daughter has seizures twice a day. She foams at the mouth and her whole body becomes stiff.
Here in Jordan, my neighbours told me about Caritas. I am going to talk to the Caritas doctor about epilepsy medicine. If this doctor wasn’t here, I don’t know what I’d do.
I didn’t want to leave my country, but I was afraid for my kids.
Adnan had five children. We were neighbours, and like family. May he rest in peace.
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 leave my country,” she says. Finally, though, it wasn’t about her: “I was afraid my kids would be killed.” She too fled to Jordan. Continue reading
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.
I saw 22 children in one place yesterday, then ten in another. Continue reading
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 are crowding into apartments, with five or more people in each room. Other families are living in tent camps by the side of the road in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. The valley is a farming area and many tents are just seed sacks that are sewn together. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
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 reconciliation. The leaders and believers of different religions, too, though prayer and mutual collaboration, are called to make great efforts to promote the longed-for peace, for the good of the whole population.” Continue reading
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, sanitary pads, jerry cans, milk, school and kits, hygienic kits and food since December 2011. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
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 the urgent need to start negotiations and bring an end to the cycle of violence through dialogue.
Meanwhile, the work of Caritas continues in Syria and with refugees in neighbouring countries. In Lebanon, the mobile clinic of Caritas Lebanon, with a full time certified nurse and occasionally a doctor on board, is touring the different places in the Bekaa on a daily basis making 15-minute stops to give access to basic patient care and medicines to those in need.
That’s just part of the Caritas Lebanon response. Caritas Lebanon has distributed over 400 food kits, 2800 hygiene kits, 100 baby kits, over 1200 undergarments, 100 heaters and 2800 blankets and sheets.
In Jordan, Caritas has been issuing vouchers helping Syrian refugees to receive infant formula and nappies from a Caritas affiliated pharmacy in Mafraq. So far, 30 needy Syrian families have benefited from this assistance. This comes as part of a plan that seeks to deliver this assistance to 200 infants for six months.
More refugees continue to come across the border, with their heartbreaking stories. Children in particular have been affected. According to the Center for Documentation of Violations in Syria, 1,089 children – boys and girls alike – have been killed so far, and 464 wounded.
But sadly funding to help them is not coming in despite the real needs of people who have witnessed terrible suffering.
Final Report of the Assembly of the Catholic Hierarchy in Syria Continue reading