Imagine having to leave your home today, perhaps with little notice, taking only what you can carry, to set off for a foreign land where you hope to find safety for your family. Imagine the fear and sadness you might feel. Imagine the desperation, and courage, it would take to make a decision like that. This is the stark reality for many of our brothers and sisters around the world today.
One place where scores of families are making this decision every day is Syria. The civil war in Syria continues to make the world news, yet it is difficult to grasp how dire the situation is there. Over 1.5 million men, women and children have fled the violent conflict to seek safety in neighboring Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt. Furthermore, 4.25 million people have been displaced from their homes within Syria, and the United Nations expects as many as 10 million displaced by the end of this year. Each day, 6.8 million people affected by the conflict need shelter, food, water, and medical care. Even if those fleeing make it to safety, they still face a disturbing reality that Catholic Relief Services (CRS) President and CEO Dr. Carolyn Woo writes about in this article:
“Refugees are often crowded into ‘shelters’ which are not equipped to handle their basic human needs nor numbers: make-shift tents, abandoned buildings, garages, ‘lean-tos’ on the sides of existing homes. The conditions can be horrific: over 100 degree heat, extreme cold, crowding, absence of water, sanitation and disposal of solid waste. Less visible but equally devastating is the loss of one’s language, culture, community and the basic elements of identity and dignity.”
The sheer number of people affected is daunting, but who exactly are these people? They are mothers like Anaadi Ahmad, pictured here with one of her children at a refugee camp, who fled Syria to protect the lives of her family. They are grandmothers like Noujad, who lost her husband to the violence in Syria, and is still searching for her missing son. They are fathers like Ziad Rshidat Abu-yamai, who cares for his son alone while waiting for his wife and two daughters to cross the border safely and reunite with them. They are young children, whose precious lives and futures are forever changed by this conflict.
As Catholics, we are called to protect and uphold the dignity of all life, from womb to tomb, in our own country and around the world. Dr. Carolyn Woo recently attended a meeting with Pope Francis, and shared that “he called us to combine our faith and charity to assist the individuals caught in these unspeakable tragedies. He told us to not abandon them as ‘their face is the face of Christ,’ who was also a refugee when his parents fled to Egypt from Herod’s murderous rampage.”
By raising our voices for and with our Syrian brothers and sisters, we can work toward containing the violence, restoring stability in the region, providing humanitarian assistance, and encouraging the building of an inclusive society in Syria that protects the rights of all its citizens, including Christians and other minorities.
How can we take action now to help the millions of men, women, and children who are struggling to survive in Syria and the surrounding region today? Here are four easy ways:
2. Learn more about the situation in Syria by reading Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas’ series of blog posts on his recent trip to Lebanon, watch him present on his experiences through this recorded webcast, or read a letter from Bishop Kicanas and Bishop Richard E. Pates for the USCCB to Secretary of State John Kerry, calling on him to help work towards a political solution to end the violence and suffering in Syria.
3. Take Action to help Syrian refugees through the Catholics Confront Global Poverty Action Center. Send an email or make a phone call to your Members of Congress encouraging them to work for a political solution to end the violence in Syria. Your voice can make a difference TODAY in bringing about peace in the region! Don’t forget to share the alert with your family and friends.
4. Share at least one part of this information – a prayer, photo, fact, action alert, or article – with your family, friends, and fellow parishioners. Please contact Cheryl Mrazik at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on ways to do so!
By Cheryl Mrazik, Catholic Relief Services, Northeast/Mid-Atlantic Office in Radnor, PA