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Arabo praises support for relocation of displaced Christians

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: Syrian refugee children at clinic in Jordan, by Russell Watkins, Dept. for International Development

March 6, 2015 (San Diego’s East County ) – Today the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops urged the global community, led by the United States and Europe, to take action to save the lives of 4 million Syrian refugees.

“Without more international support, we will find Syrians fleeing extremists being turned away and forced back to danger,” said Anastasia Brown, interim executive director for USCCB’s Migration and Refugee Services.

A delegation of USCCB officials which visited the region in late 2014, released their report March 6. Entitled “Refuge and Hope in the Time of ISIS: The Urgent need for Protection, Humanitarian Support, and Durable Solutions in Turkey, Bulgaria, and Greece,” the

The report highlights the struggles Syrians face as they attempt to find protection, with many traveling through Greece and Bulgaria on their way to Europe. According to the United Nations, many more are taking dangerous sea journeys in boats to reach the continent.  Meanwhile Syria and Iraq are tightening border policies, restricting the flow of Syrian refugees.

“It was apparent from our trip that the protection space in the region for Syrians is shrinking,” said Matt Wilch, refugee policy advisor for MRS/USCCB. “People are becoming more desperate and are attempting dangerous journeys to Europe and beyond.”

Of special note is the impact the crisis is having on children, who number as many as 2 million—half the total of Syrian refugees. Among those are unaccompanied children who, according to the delegation, have a special claim on protection.

“The number of unaccompanied children and other vulnerable children from Syria and elsewhere is rising, yet there are few protection mechanisms in place to identify and rescue them from harm,” said Nathalie Lummert, director of Special Programs for MRS/USCCB. “What we are seeing is an exodus of the next generation in Syria, with little hope for their future.”

The delegation also expressed grave concern for the plight of religious minorities, who are targets of extremists in the region as recent captures and beheadings have shown. Assyrian and Chaldean Christians, along with Yazidis, are at risk of their lives.

 “Without a dramatic response to this unprecedented humanitarian challenge, we will continue to see ongoing suffering and even death in this population, especially among the most vulnerable,” Brown said.

The delegation’s report lists several recommendations to address the crisis, including increased refugee assistance and resettlement. The full report is available at www.usccb.org/about/migration-policy/upload/Refuge-and-Hope-in-the-Time-of-ISIS.pdf


Mark Arabo, a national spokesman for the Iraqi Chaldean Christian community, issued this statement in response.

"The shift in thinking on the part of Church leadership indicates that the option for resettlement continues to grow more and more appealing,” Arabo said. “We applaud the willingness of the USCCB to recognize the atrocities occurring against the displaced Christians of Iraq and Syria and the realization that many of these individuals will never be able to return home. We must grant those who wish to leave their respective nations, the chance to worship freely in a nation of tolerance and acceptance. That nation is the United States.”

Arabo, who has been meeting with White House officials and the State Department in recent days, adds, “This is the momentum we need to carry our mission forward in ending the Holocaust of Christians in Iraq and Syria. We continue to work with Church leadership and officials in D.C to ensure that all options are on the table when confronting the genocide of Christians at the hands of ISIS. "



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