Tag Archives: Syria

SYRIA: Waves of displaced Syrians only “tip of the iceberg” in larger crisis

from the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor

Geneva – As EU officials continue to squabble over how to respond to the growing wave of migrants and refugees, the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor is releasing an in-depth report using Lebanon as a case study of the larger crisis increasingly facing the global community.


“Most of the current debate has focused on the immediate crisis of the moment: how to stop smugglers and which countries should accept how many asylum seekers,” states the executive summary of the report. “However, there is an ever-growing problem that in the long run will exact an even higher price: the expanding proportion of refugees and forced migrants for whom displacement has become a chronic state.  In fact, the average period of time that a refugee spends out of his or her country now is 10 years.”

The Euro-Med report focuses on Lebanon because it now hosts more refugees per capita than any other country in the world (232 per 1,000 inhabitants), as well as the oldest population of long-term refugees (the Palestinians, living in limbo for 60 years now).

“Syria is currently the world’s biggest producer of both internally displaced people and refugees,” notes Pam Bailey, the researcher for Euro-Med who compiled the report. “And Lebanon is home to an estimated 1.5 million of these refugees—the highest per capita number of all the countries serving as haven. This huge influx is stressing local economies and generating xenophobia in Lebanon and other host countries, thus intensifying the drive to take tremendous risks by crossing the Mediterranean to try their chances in Europe.”…

Click here to read the rest of the story and the report.

REFLECTION: Millions of refugees have no place to call home

Tony Maglianoby Tony Magliano

The heartbreaking photo of the little Syrian refugee boy washed up dead on the shore of Bodrum, Turkey (see picture: http://bit.ly/1PZHvDV) strikingly illustrates the tragic plight of desperate refugees – mostly Syrian – fleeing for their lives from the Islamic State and other violent groups in the Middle East and Africa.

The 3-year-old boy, named Aylan, along with his 5-year-old brother, Galip, and their mother, Rehan, drowned after the raft carrying them capsized near the Turkish coast.

Millions of refugees are scrambling to escape from the life-threatening civil wars plaguing several countries from Nigeria to Pakistan.


According to the British newspaper The Independent, half of Syria’s population – approximately 11 million people – have been forced to flee; with four million living as refugees in foreign nations. And approximately 2.6 million Iraqis have been displaced, both due to civil wars and the barbarism of the Islamic State.

Matt Wilch, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) refugee policy advisor for Migration and Refugee Service, told me that of the four million Syrian refugees, 1.8 million are being hosted by Turkey, Jordan has 1 million, Egypt has 200,000, tiny Lebanon is hosting over 1 million, and ironically even war-torn Iraq has opened its doors to 200,000 Syrians.

But according to U.S. State Department figures, since March of 2011 – when the Syrian conflict started – only 1,554 Syrians have been admitted through the U.S. refugee resettlement program. This is shameful.

Wealthy Europe and the U.S. have a moral obligation to offer far more help.

Germany is providing an excellent example here. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said that any Syrian arriving in Germany would be granted asylum.

With 800,000 refugees expected to arrive in Germany before year’s end, Merkel has been urging Germans to rise to the challenge. She said, “There can be no tolerance of those who question the dignity of other people.”

Wilch said if the U.S. and other wealthy nations would provide much more aid to Syria’s neighboring nations, not only would refugees be able to benefit from improved services, but most would not feel compelled to take the long dangerous journey to Europe.

Wilch said only 37 percent of the needs of refugees are being funded in these neighboring host countries.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, approximately 2,500 people have perished en route to Europe since the beginning of this year alone.

The USCCB is urging Congress to increase the number of refugees allowed in the U.S. to 200,000 annually – 100,000 from Syria and 100,000 from other nations. Please contact your congressional delegation urging them to honor the bishops’ plea. And urge them to greatly increase aid to the Middle East nations hosting millions of refugees. The resources of these generous nations are stretched to the limit.

Also, to be of further help please go to this link, http://bit.ly/1LZxENG, at the Jesuit Refugee Service/USA to easily submit (click submit twice) a letter to your senators and congressperson on behalf of our suffering refugee brothers and sisters.

And to go the extra mile, kindly consider making a donation to Catholic Relief Services by going to this link, www.crs.org/stories/european-migrant/crisis/grows, and clicking “European Migrant Crisis Grows.” Then click “Donate Now.”

Pope Francis has strong words for those who would turn away refugees: It is “violence to erect walls and barriers to block those seeking a place of peace. It is violence to push back those fleeing from inhuman conditions in the hope of a better future.”

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 San Clemente, CA to Baltimore. Tony can be reached at tmag@zoominternet.net.

REFLECTION: Jesuit Refugee Service brings help to a Syria in crisis


by Thomas Reese, S.J., NCR

Jesuit Frs. Peter Balleis and Michael Zammit were in Washington in April, making the rounds of nongovernmental organizations and government offices to inform policymakers of the humanitarian crisis in Syria. Balleis is the international director of the Jesuit Refugee Service, and Zammit works with refugees and internally displaced people in Syria. They were also visiting JRS-USA, which is based in Washington. The interview was edited for length and clarity.

NCR: What is the Jesuit Refugee Service? What does it do?

Balleis: Jesuit Refugee Service is an organization around 35 years old. Today, we are working in 46 countries and last year reached out to around 760,000 people.

We move according to the crises in the world. Thirty-five years ago, during the Cold War, it was Asia-Pacific, helping refugees from Cambodia and Vietnam.

Then in the mid-1990s when Africa exploded, we continued in Asia-Pacific and other places like San Salvador, El Salvador, but the main focus became Africa with the Rwanda crisis, the Great Lakes crisis, Sudan and so on. More recently, the conflicts in Africa are more in the Sahel Zone. We work in the Central African Republic, Chad, and we have started in Cameroon. We are going to engage with the refugees who are victims of the Boko Haram...

Read the entire article by clicking here.

REFLECTION: Syria may go from awful to even worse


by Thomas Reese, S.J., NCR

Syria has suffered like few countries in the world. Although it lived with minimal conflict for many years, its leader, Bashar al-Assad, maintained order through intimidation and terror. When peaceful demonstrators challenged his dictatorial rule, they were attacked, killed, or put in prison. What started as a civil war has become internationalized with the presence of the so-called Islamic State group and its opponents joining the fray.

iraq-syria-buttonAssad has spared no weapon in putting down resistance, whether it be chemical weapons, barrel bombs, artillery bombardments or snipers. The United Nations estimates that 220,000 have died in the war. There are disputes over what percentage of the dead are civilian, but they are certainly significant.

Assad wants to paint all of his opponents as terrorists or Islamic State supporters, but his opponents also include thousands of people fed up with his regime. His military strategy is to go after the weaker, non-Islamic State opponents while avoiding the Islamic State fighters. His purpose is to eliminate the non-Islamic State forces while leaving the anti-Islamic State coalition to degrade and push back the Islamic State. His endgame is to present himself as the only alternative to the Islamic State after he has destroyed his other opponents…

Read the entire article by clicking here.

IRAQ-SYRIA: PCUSA supports letter calling for an end to violence in Iraq, Syria

iraq-syria-buttonPax Christi USA has signed onto a letter to President Obama that was delivered to the White House and Congress this past week.

On the occasion of the 12th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq (March 2003) and the 4th anniversary of the violence in Syria (March 2011), both of which were marked this week, faith leaders tied the two events together and stated that “the violence and death must end, on all sides; it must not be stoked with the recourse to lethal action.”  They highlighted the effects of instability and ongoing violence in both countries and condemned the violence perpetrated against various groups of people.

Click here to read the full letter.

STATEMENT: Pax Christi International on the violent conflict in Syria – ending the war and saving lives must be top priority

pcilogonewfrom Pax Christi International

Syria’s popular uprising started in the city of Dara in March 2011. The merciless actions of the Syrian Government – whose campaign of violent repression against what were originally peaceful protesters began four long years ago – have now morphed into wave upon wave of pitiless assaults by all sides. The Syrian conflict has killed well in excess of 200.000 people, and continues to kill more every day. It has involved the torture and ill-treatment of countless others; forced millions to flee; and deprived even more of the basic conditions for a decent life, including the rights to education, food, healthcare and housing.

iraq-syria-buttonThe conduct of an ever-increasing number of actors is characterised by a complete lack of adherence to the norms of international law. Human rights are being violated to a shocking degree. The State, which is responsible for the security of its citizens, has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity against its citizens; radical non-State armed groups are doing the same.

Humanitarian aid has been instrumentalised for military gain. In many cases, aid to civilians living in areas under the control of non-State armed groups is not delivered. The conditions imposed by the State and by some armed groups on the delivery of humanitarian assistance use civilian suffering as a retaliatory measure, which is immoral…

Read the entire statement by clicking here.

IRAQ-SYRIA: ISIS – Nonviolent resistance?

by Eli McCarthy, Pax Christi Metro D.C.-Baltimore

iraq-syria-buttonAnything sound familiar to the recent grumblings about war? The lyrics of “dismantle, defeat, and destroy” continue to resound in our collective discourse and consciousness. Another Authorization of Military Force has been proposed and most of Congress appears to simply be debating the parameters of an AUMF rather than alternatives.

Meanwhile after over seven months of bombing and using our “diplomatic” power to organize more bombing along with cursory efforts at disrupting the financial and human flow to ISIS, the following has occurred. 1) Recruitment has actually increased significantly from a mere 10,000 to upwards of 30-50,000 if not more. Further, groups in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, and Algeria have identified allegiance to ISIS. 2) Blowback is spreading not only with beheadings but also attacks in France, Denmark and Libya. ISIS itself is part of the predictable line of blowback from the Iraq wars, the war on terror, and the Afghanistan war against the Soviets in the 1980’s that spawned the Taliban, Bin Laden, and Al Qaeda. We can draw the exacerbation line back further as well. Even if we “dismantle, defeat, and destroy” ISIS with arms, we will almost certainly exacerbate the bitterness and hostility that will create another similar group or movement. 3) Perhaps, most importantly we are becoming less and less attentive to human dignity and the value of human life, as we waive our human rights laws restricting who we give military aid to, and as we drop our “near certainty” standard for ensuring civilians are not harmed by our bombing.

I along with many other religious leaders have identified specific ways to engage this conflict, with a recent webinar and action alert. One of the key ways is a political track that involves a regional approach including Iran, but also identifying people of influence with members of ISIS. These people can create lines of communication with low, mid and perhaps in time with upper level leaders to identify grievances or needs and seek to peel away support. The reality is that lines of communication have already been happening but in a minimal and peripheral way. Multiple negotiations (ex. with the Peshmerga, Turkey, Jordan, U.S. citizens, etc.) have occurred with ISIS over hostages from different state and non-state actors. Members of ISIS are still human beings. I want to focus on a three key methods which are also not getting adequate public or congressional debate, and should become central parts of the overall strategy…

Read the entire article here.