1-2 August 2013
Representatives of Aid to the Church in Need, Caritas, Cor Unum, the Good Shepherd Sisters and other charitable institutions hosted by Melkite Patriarch Gregorios III at his Ain Traz summer residence, met with him and other Church representatives over the first two days of August to study common approaches to humanitarian aid in crisis-torn Syria.
Organised by ACN’s Fr Andrzej Halemba, the meeting allowed HB Gregorios III together with Abp Mario Zenari, Papal Nuncio to Syria, Mgr Paolo Borgia of the Lebanese Nunciature, Abp Samir Nassar of the Maronite Church in Damascus, Mgr Giampetro dal Toso of Cor Unum, representatives of the Syrian Catholic bishop of Homs and representatives of Caritas Syria, Caritas Lebanon, Caritas MONA, CNEWA, Fundazione AVSI, CRS Lebanon, Good Shepherd Sisters and ECHO to deliberate co-ordinated courses of action and study appropriate methodologies for relief work.
Spiritual support and loving solidarity, together with prayer underpin financial and practical assistance.
Many families in Syria are suffering from the crisis and children’s education is frequently jeopardised. Though a coordinated response to these problems is often difficult due to lack of personnel and resources, Caritas MONA can serve to coordinate responses from different branches of Caritas.
Despite a lack of non-governmental organisations in Syria authorised to carry out relief work, the Church is free to step in to meet the need, and NGOs may work through Caritas Syria.
The Melkite Patriarchate of Damascus presented reports about the emergency relief work done by the Patriarchal Committee. Similar reports were given about the Archeparchies of Homs and Lattakieh.
The Melkite Eparchy of Zahleh (Lebanon), for example, in coordination with other institutions, is currently offering various kinds of relief and assistance to some seven hundred Syrian families, though its task will become more difficult as winter approaches.
Sisters of the Good Shepherd are doing similar relief work at Deir el-Ahmar with about eight hundred displaced Syrian families, of which thirty-two are Christian. This illustrates that the Church’s assistance is open to all without distinction, as Syria’s Muslim families gladly recognize.
On day two of the meeting, Mr Bruno Rotival of ECHO (the Humanitarian Aid department of the European Commission) was able to consult with representatives of the Churches and charitable institutions present and advise them about the best way to proceed in order obtain financial assistance and project guidance from the European Union.
At present, ECHO finances life-saving food, shelter and health care for Palestinian and Syrian refugees and displaced persons in Lebanon, but social and educational funding for projects in Syria is hardly available due to the multiplicity of demands on Europe’s charitable funds and practical difficulties at local level.
For the future, a partnership agreement could be signed between local Caritas organisations and those in European countries, such as France.
Another avenue of approach may be for the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchate to coordinate its efforts with those of UN institutions, such as UNICEF, with which it already has a partnership agreement, besides working with the Red Cross and Red Crescent.
Co-operation is the key to success in building a better future for everyone in Syria and the region.