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Dim prospects for Syrian Christians stranded in Lebanon

9/26/2013 - 10:42 AM PST

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Dim prospects for Syrian Christians stranded in Lebanon

NEW YORK, NY (September 26, 2013)—The American threats to attack Syria boosted the number of refugees in Lebanon, the president of Caritas Lebanon reported. But Father Simon Faddoul told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that “since the military strike has not materialized after all, the number of refugees has diminished some.” Regardless, the prospects of those who remain are bleak, he said.

The Lebanese government estimated the number of Syrians in Lebanon being close to 1.4 million, the great majority having come in the wake of the outbreak of Syria’s civil war two years ago. "If it comes to the decisive battle for Damascus there will be a refugee disaster," said Faddoul.

"The latest report from the World Bank shows what a disastrous effect the Syrian war is having on Lebanese society, its security and economy," Faddoul said. According to the most recent estimates by the World Bank, the costs and losses incurred by the Lebanese economy due to the conflict will amount to $7.5B by the end of 2014. On top of this, Faddoul added, are compounding social and security problems. “The future is sombre,” said the Maronite priest.

His organisation has to date undertaken care for 125,000 refugees, including 10,000 Christians, with the majority being Muslims. Faddoul is worried about the approach of winter. "We need everything: blankets, heating oil, clothing, food, hygiene articles, money for housing and more. Our resources are never enough. But we are doing our best with what we can get."

French Sister Georgette Tannoury from the Community of the Good Shepherd (Bon Pasteur) also expressed her worries. She heads a walk-in clinic for refugees in the Lebanese capital of Beirut. The clinic serves more than 150 Syrians daily, mostly women and children. Both the clinic and Caritas Lebanon at large receive support from ACN. supports her humanitarian work.

"The number of Syrians is very large," said Tannoury. "Children fill the streets and run between the cars begging. We've never experienced so many robberies and other crimes in the country as in the present year. The result is increasing frustration in Lebanon in the face of the many refugees. One lady reported to me that she was afraid of sending her daughter out onto the street to do the shopping."

Unlike Jordan, for example, Lebanon has no reception camps and so the refugees end up spread throughout the country. "They often live in garages. Families who lived in large houses in Syria suddenly find themselves in a room with 15 other people. Their children reject this and prefer to live on the streets,” the religious said.

The hardship, said Tannoury, often forces people to take desperate measures. "One woman told me that her husband had forced her into prostitution to feed the family. Another father had sold his 13-year-old daughter to a 60-year-old man to get money. I hear stories like these all day long. May God take pity on his people.”

Aid to the Church in Need is an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries. www.churchinneed.org

Keywords

Lebanon, Syrian Christian refugees, Syria

Category

International Archdiocese & Diocese

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