We are happy to have this on-the-ground report from Dan Groody, C.S.C., of the University of Notre Dame:

TURKEY--The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that the number of Syrians fleeing their country’s violent conflict could number up to 700,000 by year’s end and 1.5 million by June 2013. Many of these seek help and protection from neighboring countries in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Egypt.

For the last number of weeks I have been part of a delegation of the Migration and Refugee Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. We were sent to study the situation of the Middle East, to build networks of solidarity between countries, and to advocate at home and abroad for those most threatened in this conflict. The situation is critical. We have been meeting with UN officials, ministers of foreign affairs, ambassadors, church leaders and members of various faith based organizations who are reaching out to those fleeing the conflict.

Entry into the official and unofficial refugee camps, and speaking with the refugees themselves, has given an important window into the depth of the human struggle. One dwelling at a make-shift camp at the Lebanon-Syrian border had more than 40 children, and inside their teetering plastic-covered shelter we talked at length with three women, who were in their early twenties.  They are all sister-in-laws, and each one of their husbands was recently killed in the conflict in Syria. Their pain spoke louder than their words. In the midst of the conversation one of the widows came forward with a cell phone and showed us a video of the each of their husbands as they were dying or just after being brutally killed. Then the mother of those men came into the tent. She had just been told her grandson was killed yesterday and that her fourth son is now in prison. The depth of their pain relativized every other conversation everywhere else.

As their story unfolded the Syrian refugee situation was no longer about statistics but people who had a face I could see, a hand I could touch, a shoulder I could put my arm around. Putting my mind my mind around the Middle East, it politics and its problems became more difficult as time has gone on. Even if there are complex reasons behind the conflicts, and more urgently the hesitations to respond to those in need--the fundamental reasons are very simple: People here are crying out for basic protections and a safe place to call home. And unfortunately the Syrian refugee conflict is just the tip of the vulnerability iceberg.  The delegation has made us even more aware of the situation of unaccompanied minors, trafficked persons in the Sinai desert, Afghan refugees and Iraqi refugees residing in Syria, who now must flee again because of yet another war. The church and the governments in these countries—and especially Jordan and Turkey—are playing important roles giving humanitarian aid. But the need of the people here far exceeds any help currently being offered, and there is a desperate plea for greater solidarity expressed though greater humanitarian assistance.

Dan Groody

 

Comments

Bill Mazzella | 10/22/2012 - 9:56pm
It is not  for us to judge people. We must always help those in need. Let our sun shine on all. The reality is that in this country we suffer little while living in luxury while many are mal nourished and are mistreated by corrupt police and civil servants. It can be argued that God is more with the downtrodden than with us. 
Stanley Kopacz | 10/22/2012 - 3:40pm
"Arabs, oil rich and decadent".

That's how we oil addicts like them .
David Smith | 10/22/2012 - 12:46am
Nations have no hearts - they give or withhold gifts in their own interests. People like Mr. Groody have the luxury of having their heartstrings pulled in public, but the people who really help are too busy helping to talk about how they feel.

The world is full of need. In fact, none of us is exempt - we're all needy. Sometimes, the need is visible, open, raw, televised, as with refugees and the other victims of war, and then extra money and sudden organized effort is appropriate. Maybe the heartstring pulling is work, too - useful for bringing in money to fuel the charities on the ground.

In the best of all possible worlds, there'd be no hand wringing. Help would always be there when needed, and need would be rare. But we live in this world, the only one possible, where need is constant and where hands are wrung and damnations are passed around liberally. 
Vincent Gaitley | 10/21/2012 - 11:44pm
So, are you suggesting the US should help these fresh refugees?  These folks would have defended the Syrian regime until it turned on them; these folks never helped their fellow Arab Palestinian "refugees" except to wage war now and then against Israel.  The Syrian people are not innocent of both the Assad regimes' terrors.  Now the tables are turned, and I hope the decent (if there are any) Syrians prevail.  Let Arabs, oil rich and decadent, always clamoring about the cruelty of Israel help them.  Since so many Arab nations ignored UN pleas in the 1940s and 50s, the political consequences have been grave for the world.  I am not at all happy that these people suffer, but I do think that they should seek comfort from their own.  The US has received only contempt for every kindness offered.  Let the Saudis pass out hummus and humility, pita and pity from the trunks of their Rolls Royces.  Where are those lovable humanitarians Hamas and Hezbollah? And that peaceable kingdom of Palestinians? Let them help.