Jordan and Lebanon: Snow and cold for the syrian refugees

Source: FSSPX News

After the dry spell and a particularly warm month of November, a wave of snow and cold hit the eastern Mediterranean (Jordan, Lebanon, Israel and Palestine) in early December, making the dramatic living conditions of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees unbearable. The storm Alexa brought snowfalls on the heights and rain on the plains, along with violent winds. “Nearly three quarters of the Syrian refugees found asylum in Lebanon and Jordan. Over 50% of them are under 17 and they all live in different refugee camps in very precarious conditions, often without electricity and drinkable water. The daily arrival of Syrians in mass makes it impossible to build lodgings and obliges the populations to face the cold under tents, sometimes even on ground covered in snow,” revealed the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Patriarch Fouad Twal, underlining how urgent it is that help be brought to the Syrian refugees.

In the huge camp of Zaatari (Jordan), full of tents and portable cabins, situated 12 km from the Syrian border, many tents were blown away by the storm: “we have intensified the distribution of blankets and woodstoves. Since the beginning of the emergency, we have helped 200,000 refugees, but they keep coming, even with the snow and ice and we are not able to meet the needs of this tide of women, children and men who flee the war only to live in the midst of deprivations and suffering,” remarked Wael Suleiman, director of the Jordan Caritas. Because the warfare continues in the Syro-Jordanian frontier zone, the Syrians are still coming in January 2014.

In Lebanon, the 80,000 refugees under tents in the makeshift camps of the valley of Bekaa and in the district of Akkar also endured the storm and the snow. The Syrians who fled the snowy mountainous region of Qalamoun, in which the armed conflict between the regular army and the rebel factions has intensified in the past few weeks, continue to flood into Lebanese territory. Lebanon is at present the greatest refuge country for the Syrians refugees of the region, with almost 840,000 Syrians registered or waiting to be registered; in the absence of a real camp, the refugees live mostly within the local communities in almost 1,600 locations.

Indeed, on November 28, Fr. Georges Louis, Greek-Catholic pastor of St. Michael of Qara, confided to the press agency Fides that the villages, Christian or not, situated to the north of Damas in the uplands of Qalamoun, have been targeted by armed groups of foreign Djihadists, who comb them systematically, bringing death and destruction. The city of Qara has been devastated and burned: “Maalula, Sednaya, Sadad, then Qara and Deir Atieh, now Nebek. The armed Djihadists apply the same tactics: they target a village, invade it, kill, burn, devastate. The foreign militiamen act beyond the control of the free Syrian army, which in many cases has had to retreat when faced with the foreign armed groups,” explained Fr. Louis.

Grégoire III Laham, patriarch of Antioch of the Greek Melkites, in Damas, guessed that 9 million Syrians have been forced to abandon their homes, whether they simply moved or were exiled from their country, with a total of 450,000 Christians of different confessions who have emigrated since the beginning of the war. The United Nations High Commissariat for Refugees (UNHCR) counts almost 2.3 million Syrian refugees. About 60 churches have been pillaged and destroyed.

The Christians of Syria “hope that the 2nd Conference of Geneva (scheduled for January 22, 2014) will open for Syria the perspectives of democracy, liberty and equality.” That is why they are opposed to any Muslim derivative trying to impose the Sharia as a source of jurisdiction which would reduce the Christian community to the rank of a ‘protected minority’”, Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo, titular of the Eparchy of Hasskè-Nisibi, confided to Fides on January 8, 2014:“But now, even the opposition groups involved with the Free Syrian Army – which are presented as moderate compared to the Djihadist formations – have united under the Muslim flag and declare that Sharia law should be applied in the new Syria, since such is the will of the majority. This is a perspective that the Christians cannot accept.” And he added: “The United States, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are promoting or at least accepting a repetition in Syria of what happened in Egypt, with results that we know only too well.”

“In Syria,” explained Archbishop Hindo, “the Christians have always been an integral part of the common country, as citizens of full right and not as a minority. After the French protectorate, the Syrians had chosen a secular and democratic system before the regime imposed by the Baath party.” To those who declare that the Christians support the regime of Assad, the Archbishop answers frankly: “At first, the protests against the government demanded liberty, democracy and an end to corruption. Then people came from the outside to steal our revolution. The Syrian people does not want barbarism and tyranny distorted by religious words. Of two evils, it is human to always choose the lesser.”

(sources: apic/patriarcat/fides/aed/unhcr – DICI no.288 Jan. 17, 2014)

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