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Pope Francis renewed his strong appeal for peace in Syria, where one of the most lethal armed conflicts is taking place, with more civilian victims in relation to the military, with the greatest number of evacuees and refugees. The violence and all kinds of abuse have reached unspeakable levels, with no consideration whatsoever of human dignity.
Powerful are the words with which Pope Francis received in audience the participants, manifesting his particular closeness to the Christian community of the region and to the whole population. “How many more sufferings must be inflicted before a political solution to the crisis is found?” “The work of the Catholic charity agencies is extremely significant: to help the Syrian population, beyond ethnic or religious membership; it is the most direct way to offer a contribution to the pacification and building of a society open to all different components.”
From June 4-5, the Pontifical Council Cor Unum convoked a meeting of humanitarian coordination on the crisis in Syria, which was attended by some 25 representatives of the local Churches, of charitable organizations active in the area, of institutional donors of the Catholic world, of the Holy See, and the Apostolic Nuncio in Syria, who reaffirmed the continuity of their commitment and renewed the Holy Father’s appeal, so that all violence will cease and avenues of dialogue and reconciliation open in respect of all.
The local Churches have given concrete responses to the population since the beginning of the conflict, from March 2011 up to today, it in Syria and in the whole Region. More than 400,000 people are regularly supported, without any discrimination, with humanitarian aid in the social, health and educational realm, for a total amount of more than 25 million euros. The testimonies brought, fruit of direct experience in the area, in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and other countries, where refugees continue to arrive, and confirm the extent of the tragedy: there are almost 7 million people in need of humanitarian aid, more than 4.5 million internal evacuees and increasingly more people seeking safety outside the country’s borders (Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq have already received more than 2 million Syrian refugees).
A more detailed analysis of the needs in the area has made evident that, with the coming of summer the risk of epidemics will certainly increase, as will the lack of medicines and care for the stricken population, in particular for pregnant women and children, the elderly and the disabled. The general picture of logistics, security and humanitarian protection remains alarming and it will get worse if a way is not found to guarantee respect for humanitarian rights in general and, in particular, safe humanitarian access for aid, especially if a truce is not reached or at least a cease-fire.
All this will require an even greater and more combined effort by Catholic charitable organizations. Because of this, the Pontifical Council Cor Unum launches an appeal, on behalf of all the organizations present at the meeting, to support — including financially — the efforts of humanitarian aid and the pursuit of peace, in view of the hoped for reconstruction of a lacerated and destroyed country.
The international community must provide more support to countries that receive the refugees and humanitarian operations, to be able to respond to their growing needs. The international community’s commitment to mediation, though more decisive compared to the preceding months, still seems insufficient. Thus the risks increase of another endless war in Syria, where the first victims are the defenseless civilians, treated as targets and often as direct and indirect victims of the constant violence, “a pointless slaughter.”
Taking part in the meeting were representatives of the following organizations: Aid to the Church in Need International, AVSI Foundation, CAFOD, Caritas Austria, Caritas France, Caritas Germany, Caritas Internationalis, Caritas Jordan, Caritas Lebanon, Caritas Luxembourg, Caritas Middle East and North Africa (Caritas MONA), Caritas Syria, Caritas Turkey, Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), Catholic Relief Services (CRS), International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC), International Confederation of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.[Translation by ZENIT]