Vincentians and conflicts in the Middle East

by | Nov 7, 2015 | News, Society of St. Vincent de Paul | 3 comments

SSVDP MidEast
The international website of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul offers this report on conflicts in the Middle East. The SSVP and other Catholic organizations met at Cor Unum.

“Greetings from a land where love died and peace was buried” these opening words from a delegate at the Cor Unum Meeting in the Iraqui-Syrian Humanitarian Crisis resonated around the Conference Hall on September 17. Delegates from 55 Catholic entities – including the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul – working in this area of the Middle East were emotionally moved.

A key part of the day was given over to Survey Report conducted by the Catholic aid agencies information Focal Point for the Iraq-Syrian humanitarian Crisis. This service was created in October 2014, in collaboration with several Catholic charities working in the area, in order to acquire an overview of the humanitarian assistance offered by the Catholics entities in 2014-2015, as well as to identify main needs, challenges, common elements for reflections and priorities for future action.

Covering 7 countries (Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt and Cyprus) the survey highlights 2 crosscutting elements within the activities of Church entities :

1) The widespread nature of action : geographically, the interventions cover almost all the areas of the crisis, including areas with presence of displaced people and refugees. Through the local conferences, the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul take its part in assisting the 1.1 million Syrian and Iraqian refugees present in Lebanon, providing them with (basic commodities, healthcare, shelter, school supplies for children). The assistance also reaches areas of difficult access and great risk in the countries in conflict, involving a large number of qualified people and volunteers who work on the ground. Many of them stay in the area to maintain help to the weakest: in Hassakeh (Syria) the Vincentians continue to care for an elderly home, despite the huge material difficulties related to this conflict zone.

2) The multi-sectoral dimension of interventions: the Church entities’ actions cover multiple sectors involving many different actors who work on the ground, each in their own specific field, and occur through multi-sectoral programs that respond to the needs of individual on a holistic basis.

During the meeting, the Holy Father spoke to those present and said : “I urge you to give special attention, to the material and spiritual needs of the weakest and most defenseless : I think particularly of the families, the elderly, the sick and the children.”

In 2014, Church entities have mobilized more than USD 126 million for humanitarian intervention in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt and Cyprus, serving more than 4 million beneficiaries.

The priority sectors of intervention were : food aid (USD 30 million) non-food items (USD 24 million) education (USD 23 million), health care (USD 20 million), shelter/rent assistance (USD 8 million)

Estimations for 2015 (provisional data, updated to May 2015) report a total amount of USD 150 million mobilized by Church entities to support more than 4 million beneficiaries. The survey highlighted the priority sectors identified as insufficiently covered by the Church entities in 2014 : education, livelihoods, psychological and social support, shelter/rent assistance. To strengthen the humanitarian response, a special focus is recommended for peace building activities, to be integrated in education programs, activities for children.

The survey also highlights further elements of reflection, such as the importance of the work done by religious institutes to respond to humanitarian as well as spiritual specific needs of Christians communities, and persecuted minorities. Among the Church entities, the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul assists all affected and displaced people, giving a helping hand in their precarious situation and trying to restore their dignity as human beings. More than ever, the Church entities’ role is to call the public opinion and international community to take responsibility towards a peaceful solution to the conflict and to continue to denounce all forms of injustice and violence.

Pope Francis in his closing said: “in Syria and Iraq, evil destroys buildings and infrastructures, but especially the conscience of man….. Please do not abandon the victims of this crisis, even if the world’s attention were to lessen.”


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3 Comments

  1. Sr. Marianne Olives, DC

    How does one send a monetary contribution to help the Syrian Refugees? Our grade school collects for the missions and we would like to send money, possibly $200 which we could raise in a 2 month collection drive.

    Thank you,
    Sr. Marianne

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