"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you.
Not as the world gives do I give it to you.
Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.”
“Peace be with you.” Simple, powerful words that every day fill our hearts with the comfort and joy of our Faith. Yet today, that joy and that comfort has been stolen from many of our Christian brothers and sisters in Syria.
Peace is gone for the Syrian family who used to live in the house shown in this photograph. It was a loving Christian home where a mother cooked for her05 Seite Syrien National 12-87 DSC_5493 family, watching over her children as they played outside. Where a father came home after work, grateful that no one had yet discovered his was a Christian family. And where children knew only the joys and innocence of childhood.
The home that once housed this family is now this burnt out building – the front door that protected these faithful blown off its hinges, and the furnishing within destroyed.
Hundreds of families like this Christian family have fled Homs, Syria. The last remaining Christians are taking shelter in an old monastery. Father Frans van der Lugt, S.J. faces a daunting task. He is trying to find solutions for the most urgent needs of 89 people who have come to his door. He has limited supplies of food and medicine and he asks us for help.
We will not turn him down! We also cannot ignore the plight of 200 families trying to survive in Al Qusair, a small town about 20 miles from Homs. The situation is desperate, families struggling to survive on little food and running out of medicine, living in temporary shelters. They are trapped, for if given the choice to go home, most no longer would. Their fear runs too deep. Home is not home anymore. And peace has vanished from their lives and their hearts.
Bishop Antoine Audo in Aleppo is very appreciative for our help and assistance – for your support and your gifts do not provide solely food and medicine. Your gifts as the Bishop puts it “…are helping us Christians in Syria to hold our heads up in dignity and to be aware that we are not alone, that our brothers and sisters understand us and love us with active charity.”
But where is the international aid? you may ask. While Muslim refugees are supported by Arab nations, the Church is the only hope for Christian refugees. Families are afraid to take advantage of international aid because these aid agencies must record and register aid recipients. Christians have learned the hard way, during civil wars in the Middle East, that extremists may rise and the refugees’ personal information, including their religion, could be obtained, leading to harassment, persecution, or worse….
Fr. Andrzej Halemba, our head of projects for Syria, is closely monitoring the situation of the refugees. “Syria’s Christians live in fear,” he said. “The tension is almost unbearable. They rely totally on the Church. That’s why it’s so important to distribute the aid through the structures of the Church.” Through the Church, our organization provides more than food, medicine and blankets; we are a pastoral charity. We care for the spiritual well-being of our refugee brothers and sisters.
I know I can count on your prayers. Let us pray and let us open our hearts and embrace our displaced brothers and sisters in Syria, so that, as Jesus said, their hearts are not “troubled or afraid.”
I also know I can count on your generous gift to support Father Frans, Bishop Audo or Father Andrzej in their efforts to reach out to these refugees. Thank you for your generosity.
Father Hugh and EFC
P.S. Let us pray to the Lord that we awaken to His presence amongst the refugees, that we create room within our hearts to recognize Him amongst the abandoned, the suffering -- those who have entered the world of uncertainty. Right now, our Christian brothers and sisters in Syria need our help.