Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
25 Mar 2013
Syria burns forcing hundreds of thousands flee
Caritas Internationalis, the aid and development arm of the Catholic Church is struggling to cope with millions of people displaced by Syria's two year conflict and in desperate need of help.
The Syrian uprising began on 15 March 2011 as part of the "Arab Spring" sweeping the middle east at the time with demonstrations calling for democracy and the resignation of President Bashar Al-Assad and his Ba'ath party government.  Instead of winning democracy and freedom, the conflict became a bitter all out civil-war with rebel  fighters joined by foreign-funded militias whose agenda was not democracy or freedom for Syria but an Islamic state under strict Sharia law.
In the past two years 70,000 Syrians have been killed with 4 million displaced and homeless in cities and towns across the once beautiful but now battle-scarred nation. A further 1 million men, women and children who were forced to flee the increasingly bloody civil war have lost everything and are now battling to survive in over-crowded refugee camps on the borders of neighbouring countries of Turkey and Jordan.
Syrian civilians continue to bear the brunt of the violence in the nation's two year bloody civil war
In the Lebanon, where there are no refugee camps the more than 336,000 mainly women and children are being supported in temporary accommodation, with host families or in rented flats or apartments. Caritas Lebanon helps provide these families with food assistance, blankets, hygiene kits, shelter, water and sanitation as well as mental and physical health assistance.
"In terms of challenges, education and health assistance are among the most pressing need as many Syrian children in the Lebanon, the camps of Turkey and Jordan as well as inside Syria are not attending school," says CEO of Caritas Australia Jack de Groot.
He also points out that violence against Syrian women in the camps as well as Syria itself remains high and this is also an area where Caritas is responding and doing what it can to prevent this.
"But there are many tensions in the host countries to the ever growing number of Syrian refugees and the situation for these already traumatised men, women and children continues to deteriorate," Jack de Groot says.
Misery of Jordan camp too much for some who are returning t o Syria
Speaking on behalf of Caritas Australia he has issued an urgent call for more to be done to contain this escalating violence and the worsening humanitarian crisis in Syria and in the camps and border areas of the surrounding countries. While the world's emergency relief agencies such as the UN, Red Cross and Caritas Internationalis' are doing all they can, far more is needed to alleviate the situation and bring hope to those who have had to flee or who find themselves homeless and with nowhere to go.
"Caritas and other international aid agencies are struggling to keep pace with the need on the ground," says Jack de Groot and Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI 's impassioned plea to the world's governments to help the people of Syria. Speaking in January this year, a few weeks before the frail 86-year-old Holy Father announced he would be stepping down as Pontiff, he called for a ceasefire  to the fighting in Syria, stating, civil and political authorities had a "grave responsibility" to work for peace in Syria which has been "torn apart by endless slaughter and the scene of dreadful suffering among its civilian populations."
Cities, homes, livelihoods destroyed as Syria self destructs
Currently there are an estimated 420,000 Syrians in Jordan. Most are in camps and receiving some assistance but the numbers needing help is overwhelming, Mr de Groot says.  A further 75,000 Syrians are receiving assistance outside the camps alongwith food, shelter, medical services and protection, the agency is also setting up schools for the children.
In Turkey there are around 300,000 Syrian refugees with Caritas Turkey issuing an urgent Emergency appeal. This appeal is being supported by Caritas Australia and of the funds raised by this year's Project Compassion a proportion will go to emergency relief, particularly in areas such as Turkey where refugees need medical help as well as food, clothing and the basic living essentials.
Caritas Lebanon is working tirelessly to provide clothing, blankets and tarpaulins for thousands of Syrian families and individuals who have fled across the border while in war-torn Syria itself, Caritas emergency relief teams remain on the ground helping people in every way they can.
Homeless and terrified, Syrian civilians flee across the border to overcrowded refugee camps
Operating in six regions across the country, Caritas teams are finding that many of the towns and cities where they are providing help have been badly damaged by the ongoing fighting along with the continuing air and missile attacks. Infrastructure has been destroyed, businesses closed and empty and food is scarce.
The immense scale of the unfolding tragedy is difficult to comprehend. So too is the damage inflicted on one of the oldest of the world's civilisations and the historic townships that date to the cradle of Christianity and St Paul's epiphany on the Road to Damascus.
To find out more about the desperate plight of Syria's civilian population and to donate to Project Compassion, Caritas Australia's annual Lenten appeal, log on to www.caritas.org.au

Mother waits with small child in Lebanon for help with food and shelter
Children have had to flee homes and all they know for precarious life as refugees


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