Tag Archives: Syria

IRAQ: Diplomacy, not more arms, needed in Iraq and Syria

by David Cortwright

The unrest in Iraq is displacing thousands.

The unrest in Iraq is displacing thousands.

The capture of Mosul by militant Sunni extremist groups is a body blow to the Shia-dominated government of Iraq and marks a significant escalation of the sectarian war that is tearing apart the region. The Iraqi Army, which the United States created as an intended bulwark of security, has crumbled in the face of attacks by the increasingly powerful forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), with U.S. weapons and equipment sent to bolster the Iraqi Army now falling into extremist hands.

In the United States, some on the right have used the occasion to criticize the Obama administration for not doing enough to bolster the Baghdad government and for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011 (overlooking the fact that the President was elected on a pledge to do precisely that). On the left, critics blame the Bush administration’s 2003 U.S. invasion and emphasize its unintended consequences.

Debates about the past are important but do not address the problem of what can be done now to stem the spread of violence and instability. The United States and other external actors have very few options. Here are some considerations to keep in mind as the debate unfolds…

Click here to read this entire article.

PAX CHRISTI INTERNATIONAL: Sarajevo Peace Event 2014 starts June 6

pcilogonewfrom Pax Christi International

On 6-9 June, Pax Christi International will be in Sarajevo for the biggest international Peace Event of 2014, commemorating 100 years since the outbreak of World War I.

We have a great line-up of high-level speakers for workshops on transformative justice, the role of faith-based organisations in peacebuilding, campaigning for disarmament, and much more! Download the workshops’ flyer in English and Croatian. (The workshops will be in held English. No interpretation will be made available.)logo_peace_event_mreza_transp

On 8 June, we invite you to the 2014 Pax Christi International Peace Award Ceremony to honour the Jesuit Refugee Service Syria for its outstanding dedication in providing emergency relief to Syrians since the war began in 2011.

The award ceremony will take place during a Peace Concert featuring Pontanima, the Interreligious Choir of Sarajevo, recipient of the 2011 Pax Christi International Peace Award. Download Peace Concert flyer in English and Croatian.

Throughout the event, Pax Christi youth will also take part in the Sarajevo Youth Camp.

We will also have a booth at the PEACE FAIR outdoors in downtown Sarajevo! Come meet us and learn more about our work for peace and nonviolent engagement.

Sr. Patricia Chappell, SNDdeN, Pax Christi USA Executive Director will attend as a representative of Pax Christi USA. All activities are free of charge and open to anyone interested!

Stay in touch through Facebook and Twitter as we will be posting live updates, photos, and videos throughout the Peace Event.

PAX CHRISTI INTERNATIONAL: 2014 Peace Award recipient named

pcilogonewfrom Pax Christi International

The 2014 Pax Christi International Peace Award has been granted to the Jesuit Refugee Service Syria (JRS Syria) for its outstanding dedication in providing emergency relief to Syrians since the war began in 2011.

Established in 1988, the Award is funded by the Cardinal Bernardus Alfrink Peace Fund and honours contemporary individuals and organisations who make a stand for peace, justice and non-violence in different parts of the world.

JRS Syria belongs to an international Catholic organisation with a mission to accompany, serve and advocate on behalf of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons. JRS programmes are found in more than 50 countries, providing assistance to refugees in camps and cities, individuals displaced within their own countries, asylum seekers in cities and to those held in detention centres.

In the Middle East and North Africa, JRS began its work in 2008 in response to the huge number of Iraqi refugees fleeing the conflict in their country. Following the violent events in Syria from 2011 onwards, JRS Syria is now mainly focusing on emergency relief to those in greatest need, medical support and educational activities to enhance reconciliation and co-existence amongst people of different socio-economic and faith backgrounds…

Click here for more information on the award.


REFLECTION: Millions of refugees with no place to call home

Tony Maglianoby Tony Magliano

Emergency: Syria! Emergency: South Sudan! Emergency: Democratic Republic of the Congo!  These are the alarming messages being displayed on the homepage of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (www.unhcr.org).

According to the UNHCR, Syria has more people forcibly displaced than any country on earth. Over 9 million Syrians have been uprooted from their homes due to civil war – over 2.5 million of them have fled to neighboring countries as refugees. And most distressing, more than half of the displaced are children.

Syrian refugees protest against President Bashar al-Assad.

Syrian refugees protest against President Bashar al-Assad.

In South Sudan, UNHCR reports the civil war and growing food shortages there has led to approximately 2,000 people crossing into nearby countries per day. Many of these refugees have been arriving exhausted, nutritionally weak and in poor health.

According to UNHCR, armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has caused about 450,000 people to cross into neighboring countries as refugees.

And armed conflict in the Central African Republic has created a refugee population of more than 312,000. While its number of refugees is not the continent’s largest, the violence there is so overwhelming that Steve Hilbert, foreign policy advisor for Africa at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, believes it is Africa’s most desperate nation.

These tragic examples highlight the massive refugee crisis throughout much of the world. While many poorer countries are stretching their meager resources to accept and aid refugees, most rich nations are not adequately responding.

For example, UNHCR reports that Lebanon continues to host nearly 1 million refugees from Syria, while according to legislative specialist Jill Marie Gerschutz-Bell of Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. took in only 30 Syrian refugees in 2013. She said CRS is urging the Obama administration to allow 15,000 Syrians into the U.S. this coming year.

The number of Syrian refugees hosted in Lebanon would be equivalent to over 73 million refugees in the U.S, reports UNHCR.

Kevin Appleby, director of migration policy for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops explained that the U.S. must set the example, so that other rich nations will follow. He said we need to significantly increase financial refugee assistance to the UNHCR, and allow many more of the world’s refugees into our nation.

Appleby said on average the U.S. takes in 60,000 refugees per year. He noted that during the height of the Vietnam War the U.S. took in 132,000 Vietnamese in a single year. He said the U.S. could easily take in at least 100,000 annually.

Please email and call your two U.S. senators and congressperson (Capitol switchboard: 202-224-3121) urging them to significantly increase funding for international humanitarian assistance. Such an increase would provide much needed added assistance to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees’ efforts in aiding refugees.

Also, urge your congressional delegation to push for a significant expansion of the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. each year.

You can provide additional help to refugees by sending a check to Catholic Relief Services, P.O. Box 17090, Baltimore, Md. 21203-7090. Kindly earmark your check “refugee aid.” Or you can donate online http://crs.org/donate/.

Soon to be canonized Pope John Paul II said, “Concern for refugees must … highlight universally recognized human rights,” and “that the effective recognition of these rights be guaranteed to refugees.”

During Lent, when are called to remember the poor in a special way, we would do well to remember that Jesus, Mary and Joseph were once refugees.

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. Please contact your diocesan newspaper and request that they carry Tony’s column. Tony is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings about Catholic social teaching. His keynote address, “Advancing the Kingdom of God in the 21st Century,” has been well received by diocesan gatherings from Salt Lake City to Baltimore. Tony can be reached at tmag@zoominternet.net.

SYRIA: Support the #LetUsThrough Thunderclap on March 18

syria thunderclap

Pax Christi USA has signed on in support of this effort.

On the third anniversary of Syria’s pitiless conflict, we demand immediate, secure, substantial and permanent humanitarian access for all civilians, including countless children, in Syria. In the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus, the parties had shown they could come together in ways that facilitate the work of humanitarian organizations.  We urge all parties on the ground to listen to the voice of the international community as expressed unanimously through the Security Council and to act now to halt the march of death, injury, hunger and suffering. We say to our leaders: don’t let the people in Syria, children and families, lose another year to bloodshed and suffering, violating the most fundamental laws of war. We must stand #WithSyria. We say as one: #LetUsThrough.

This Thunderclap campaign aims to generate at least 23 million tweets, the pre-war population of Syria, with the #LetUsThrough hashtag. Once we have achieved that, our Thunderclap image will appear on the electronic billboard in New York’s Times Square, not far from United Nations Headquarters, sending a powerful message to the global diplomatic community that we demand they unite and “LetUsThrough.” We will then photograph the image on the Times Square billboard and tweet it out to the millions who followed us in the campaign.

Click here for more information.

SYRIA: PCUSA signs onto statement to secure humanitarian access in Syria

(Photo from the Institute for Public Accuracy.)

(Photo from the Institute for Public Accuracy.)

Pax Christi USA has signed onto the following statement to secure humanitarian access to all civilians in Syria. It originated out of the UN Relief and Works Agency.

We call on the ten leaders of the G8 Countries to “demand that the parties on the ground facilitate immediate, secure, substantial and permanent humanitarian access to all civilians in Syria”.  We request that the ten individuals listed below and the governments they lead make public statements endorsing this position which must be incorporated into the final communiqué of the G8 Summit in June.

Vladimir Putin, Francois Hollande, Barak Obama, David Cameron, Shinzo Abe, Angela Merkel, Stephen Harper, Enrico Letta, Herman Van Rompuy, Manuel Boroso.

A campaign supporting the statement will occur in March, demanding a peaceful end to this devastating conflict and immediate, secure, substantial and permanent humanitarian access for all civilians in Syria. In the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus, the parties have shown they can come together in ways that facilitate the work of humanitarian organizations.  The campaign will urge the parties and the international community to act peacefully together now to halt the march of death, injuries, hunger and suffering in Syria.