ICC Note: For more than 10 million Syrian’s displaced by the conflict in the country, life is a daily battle. There is the fight just to stay alive, with conflict raging all around, deadly cold weather, and a lack of food and shelter. Also, there is the fight to keep hope alive, to find a reason to go on, to find something to look forward to. The future seems bleak, especially for Christians of the region, but they are struggling to fight for hope.
01/11/2015 Syria (Catholic Register) It’s not easy being Syrian, especially if you’re the forgotten minority caught in the tsunami of sectarian massacres and ethnic cleansing referred to as the Syrian civil war.
Jesuit Father Nawras Sammour, who heads up the Jesuit Refugee Service in Syria, has observed the war in two stages. Living among Syria’s 7.6 million internal refugees, Sammour has seen a first phase when people are on high alert, hungry for information, out on the street in villages and refugee camps talking with each other, trying to understand what’s happening and what will happen next. But all that stops at 6 p.m. when refugees hunker down for the night with their families, trying to survive until the next day. Stage two begins when the refugees are still out on the street after 6 p.m., said Nawras.
“You have mortars around and whatever. They don’t care,” he said. “The most important thing is to live in the present moment. Tomorrow? We don’t care about it. According to me, that’s phase two. It’s much more dangerous than phase one. It’s that fatalism. Hope with fatalism doesn’t fit.”
Nawras doesn’t blame Syrians for losing hope.
“It’s too difficult to continue to hope now. In a general way, if you are realistic or are somehow rational in your approach, it’s too difficult to hope, to keep hope,” Nawras told The Catholic Register while visiting Toronto in December. “Because there is no exit point. It’s a vicious circle of violence and violence and violence and no more perspective, if you like, on the horizon.”
That 7.6 million Syrians are displaced internally is depressing enough, but the numbers don’t end there. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees has 3.2 million registered Syrian refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights counted more than 76,000 killed in 2014, bringing the three-and-a-half year total for the civil war to 206,603. The 2014 numbers include 3,500 dead children and 18,000 dead civilians.
Meanwhile, Canada failed to meet its commitment to welcome 1,300 Syrian refugees by Jan. 1 and has yet to make any new commitment. The government claims it had received 1,063 Syrian refugees in Canada by Dec. 29 — 82 per cent of its goal and a dramatic increase from a reported 457 as of Nov. 13.
Tiny Lebanon, a country of just 4.5 million people, is now host to 1.2 million Syrian refugees. It is as though Canada was suddenly living with 9.1 million homeless, traumatized foreigners. A New Year’s decision by Lebanon to impose visas to stem the tide has UNHCR officials worried about people still under fire in Syria.
For Syria’s Christians the future seems particularly bleak.
“None of the possible solutions for the Syrian crisis includes the Christians. None of it,” said Sammour. “If you are talking, for example, about a divided Syria, you have a region for the Kurds, another region for the Sunni, a third region for Alawite and a fourth region for Druze. Christians? They would be around… Now I would say we are completely ignored.”