The cry of Syria | Catholic Relief Services aids those fleeing Syrian war
Tens of thousands of Syrian refugees -- the majority mothers, children and grandparents -- bear the wounds of a war they never intended to fight.
Catholic Relief Services is supporting urgent medical care and emergency relief for the refugees in the areas most affected by the conflict across the region.
Caught by surprise
The families coming into Jordan and Lebanon say they represent pieces of something that might never again be whole. Emotions in the clinics and at refugees' temporary homes run deep, along with an underlying theme of despair for the loss of life as they knew it.
Noujad, a grandmother in her 60s, never saw this coming.
"I am thinking throughout the night: How can it be that my husband was killed and my son was kidnapped?" she asked. "The heart of a mother is very sensitive. Nobody can feel the way a mother does. ... When her son gets sick, a mother can't sleep in the night. My son is missing, and I can't sleep in the night. I want nothing but patience from God. We had no idea we would be leaving Syria this way. For my husband who left us, may he rest in peace. I hope he is in heaven now. I only ask that God protects my son."
Noujad and her extended family are receiving food, relief supplies such as stoves, soap and blankets, and regular visits by Caritas staff in their temporary home.
Living in camps
Ziad Rshidat Abu-yamai, 52, has been living the life of a single father, waiting for word that his wife has finally made it across the border. In her last attempt, she was turned back. Ziad, struggling with anxiety over what has become of her and their two daughters, still must calm the fears of his 7-year-old son.
"I think too much of my wife and daughters," Ziad said. "I keep thinking of what they might be doing now. Will they be kidnapped, killed or raped? My son cries for them at night. He hasn't seen his mother in 7 months."
Ziad brought his son for a counseling session at the Caritas clinic in the Jordanian border town of Mafraq, where the counselor gave the young boy crayons. Ziad told the counselor that he'd noticed a significant improvement in his son's demeanor since the weekly visits began
"I have nothing to do but remain strong, to look after my child and to keep things normal," said Ziad. "It will take time, especially for our children, to get over what they have witnessed. It won't be easy. My son always asks the same questions about who are hurting people. He is even drawing guns with his crayons. I wish fathers around the world never have to live the experience we have lived. I wish for no one to have lived this -- and for them to live normally and happily with their children."
Salam Zekkar, 57, is one of the lucky ones: Her entire family is with her. They are among the minority of Christian families who were living in Syria. She and her husband grew up together -- "I knew at the age of 13 I wanted to marry him," she said -- and they can't imagine ever being apart.
"I had two choices: to hold a gun and to fight, or to escape," said Salam's husband, Debo Issa Turk. "I had no choice."
"Our home back in Syria was very beautiful," says Salam. "We had a big bathroom and kitchen, a large salon and guestroom."
"Our living room was painted white, and the kids' room was painted brown," her husband continued. "We used to sing. I have a good voice, and we were part of the church choir."
But in July 2011, things started to change with murmurs of kidnappings. Things that weren't supposed to happen in these neighborhoods -- to these towns, to these families -- started to happen. And then, the unthinkable: On their walk to a bakery, some women were shot.
"We escaped in the middle of the night. God protected us," said Debo. "We came to Jordan with nothing -- literally with the clothes on our backs. The most important thing is that our kids are safe. I didn't even take my last paycheck when we left. I couldn't look back."
Salam and Debo's family is like many who yearn to be back home in Syria -- some refugees are counting the days. But even more, they want to be together, to have their loved ones safe and within reach.
"We stare in front of two emotions now," said Debo. "Emotionally, we want to be back home in Syria by Christmas. Logically, we know that it is impossible to go back now. We know that we are lucky to just be with each other -- to have each other. Our family is everything."
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Catholic Relief Services, working with Caritas Jordan and Caritas Lebanon, is providing victims of the war in Syria with food, medical care, hygiene and sanitation and emergency household goods.
• Donate by phone at (877) 435-7277 from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
• Donate online at crs.org
• Donate by mail by sending your check or money order to:
Catholic Relief Services
P.O. Box 17090
Baltimore, MD 21203-7090
- Catholic Relief Services aid workers evacuated in Sudan
- Caritas Lebanon seeks shelter for refugees fleeing Syrian violence
- Almsgiving by the faithful allows Catholic Relief Services to carry out Gospel values
- Catholic aid workers find Syrian refugees are in dark about the future
- Maronite patriarch fears effect of Syrian conflict on Lebanon
- News »
- Papal News
- Religious Liberty
- Living Our Faith »
- Church Teaching »
- Opinion »
- Year of Faith
- Special Sections »