Published: 10:00 GMT Daylight Time - Thursday 26 July 2012
Desperate humanitarian crisis engulfs displaced Syrian Christians
Country/Region: Middle East and North Africa, Syria
“We have used the terminology ‘appalling’, ‘desperate’ and ‘deplorable’. We have run out of language to describe how it is for the civilian population.”John Ging, operations director for the UN’s Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
“My heart goes out to the countless numbers of our brothers and sisters in Syria who have been reduced to homelessness and poverty by the present conflict. Within their own country they are in grave peril, and they may be unable to find security anywhere else. They have no-one to turn to for help except their worldwide Christian family.”Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Aid
Disturbing new reports from Syria have revealed the desperate humanitarian needs both within the country and on its borders, heightening concerns for its vulnerable and beleaguered Christian community.
This Christian orphanage in Homs was badly damaged in the fighting
Aid agencies are struggling to deal with an ever-growing number of refugees fleeing into neighbouring countries, as well as a large number of internally displaced people trying to get away from the fighting between government and opposition forces.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reported on 20 July that around 120,000 Syrian refugees have now registered with it. But it acknowledges that the real number is undoubtedly much greater, and expects the total to reach 200,000-250,000 in the foreseeable future.
The agency says that an average of 700 people a day are crossing the borders into Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey, though some of these countries put the figures much higher. Many are women and children, and have nothing with them except the clothes they are wearing. Large numbers are living in hotels or makeshift shelters, and are in urgent need of food, blankets and medical care.
One of the aid organisations active on the ground estimates that between 1 and 1.5 million Syrians have been forced to migrate within the country. There are thousands in the capital, Damascus, many lodging in schools, while local parks have been turned into camps for them.
The UN has launched two appeals, for $189 million to support aid to civilians inside Syria and $193 million for Syrian refugees. But both appeals are falling short by 75-80%, and the UN has warned that it may have to cut back its operations.
Christians in peril
As Syria implodes into chaos and civil war, its large but endangered Christian minority has been caught up in the growing crisis of displacement and poverty.
Tens of thousands of Christians have been driven from their cities by threats and violence. Almost the entire Christian populations of Homs and Qusayr have fled to surrounding villages or further afield. Many Christian families have seen their homes occupied and their lives torn apart by the conflict. They are in urgent need of food and other essentials.
The opposition forces and the militant groups that support them are largely hostile to Christians, believing them to be supporters of the government. An Islamist takeover is likely to generate further violence against Christians. Some believe that they have no alternative but to leave the country to avoid persecution or even death.
But few if any havens remain for them in the region. Turkey and Iraq are inhospitable places for Christians, and they have only restricted freedoms in Jordan. Even in Lebanon, once a Christian stronghold, the churches are beset by a powerful and confident Islamist movement.
Barnabas Aid is helping displaced Christian families within Syria and in other countries, with food, medicine, money for rent and other essentials. You can help by sponsoring a Christian family for just £18 a month.
If you prefer to telephone, dial: 0800 587 4006 from within the UK or +44 1672 565031 from outside the UK. Please quote project reference Middle East Fund to help Christians in Syria (project 00-1032).
For a quick donation of £3.00 by SMS (see terms and conditions here) text Barnabas/1032 to 70007 (Please note: This facility is presently only available to UK supporters).
- For all refugees and internally displaced people in Syria, that emergency aid will reach them quickly and that their needs will be met
- For Christians who have been driven from their homes or fled the country altogether, that the Lord will be a sanctuary for them and that their distress will be relieved
- For an end to the fighting in Syria and that its people will soon be able to return home
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