2014-12-05 11:12:00

Latin Church leader: support Syrian/Iraqi refugees in Jordan

(Vatican Radio) Archbishop Maroun Lahham, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem’s Patriarchal Vicar in Jordan says Caritas Jordan and Christian parishes across the country are struggling to help tens of thousands of Syrian and Iraqi refugees, many outside the protective umbrella of the United Nations Refugee agency, UNHCR. The situation is becoming even more urgent with the arrival in Jordan of more than 100 Iraqi Christian refugees almost every day, he says.

During a recent visit to Jordan to see Caritas’ work first-hand, Tracey McClure spoke with Archbishop Lahham about the unfolding refugee crisis.

Listen to Tracey McClure's interview with Archbishop Lahham: 

The Archbishop credits Caritas Jordan as being the Church’s “right hand in helping all these people… Caritas Jordan thinks of everything: houses, phones, healthcare…” regardless of the refugees’ religious affiliations, he said.

Caritas provides help to everybody who is in need…95 % of the Syrian refugees who are arrived in Jordan are Muslims, since they came from the south of Syria which is mainly poor and Muslim,” Lahham says. However, as the number of Iraqi and Syrian refugees in Jordan continues to grow, he observes, Caritas Jordan and supporting parishes are struggling to provide resources to all those in need.

For example, “For Iraqis, His Majesty the King [of Jordan] offered to welcome 1,000 Iraqi Christians”  who fled from Mosul, the Ninevah Plains and Erbil. “But now [that number has] arrived to almost 5,000,” Lahham says. Additionally, according to the Archbishop, all available parish halls of all churches (including non-Catholic churches such as Orthodox, Syrian, and Armenian parishes) have been utilized, yet the numbers of refugees seeking help continues to grow. “According to the newspapers, there [are] 120 Christian Iraqis coming every day to Jordan,” Lahham stresses.

Archbishop Lahham further points out that the refugees who have arrived left their homes “with nothing but their faith,” and that “everybody dreams of having a visa to Australia, to the States, or to Europe.” Until conflict and war have ended in the Middle East, people fleeing their homes are too scared to return. Despite Western governments offering to host some of these refugees, Lahham admits this “does not solve the problem.”

 “[At most] it would be 10 to 15% of these people…for the rest the solution [that is fair] is a return to a normal life.”

For Syrians, Lahham says that a “return to normal life” is possible, unlike for the Iraqis. “Syria is not like Iraq,” he affirms. “Those who came from Syria did not come because they were threatened of being killed by Daesh (Islamic State) … they came because there was war in their country. So if things settle in Syria, I think that the majority of Syrians would go back to their homes and to their villages. As for Iraqis, Christian Iraqis who fled from Mosul… the way they left Mosul gave no hope for them to go back… these people suffered at the maximum level.”

In order to alleviate the challenge of lacking resources and the growing numbers of refugees, Archbishop Lahham feels the government should intervene to a greater extent. “I think that a meeting should be held with the ministry of social affairs in order to see what the government can do at least to give shelter to these people who are here,” he says. 



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