One of the most touching stories I’ve heard from my colleagues is about a young Syrian refugee girl who was sent by other kids to a tent marked “Catholic Relief Services.” She was a Muslim child who had experienced the horror of war, but had never heard of the word “Catholic.” After seeing all of the refugee children in the tent playing with toys and having a good time, she told the CRS staff that she just assumed the word “Catholic” meant “help.”
This is how you are helping us be the hands of Christ in our world.
Over the past few days, the world is focusing with great intensity on the tragedy of refugees fleeing upheaval in Syria and other countries to Europe. But there is a much larger story playing out in the countries surrounding Syria and Iraq who have absorbed most of the 3.9 million refugees - more than half of them children. Studies indicate that more than 60% of Syrian refugee children are suffering from depression and 40% have full Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
On your behalf, CRS is working with refugees, mostly women and children, who are largely hidden in the news but who are suffering the most from the civil war in Syria and the rise of ISIS. CRS is providing support to more than 700,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey and Iraq. Programs to help children get beyond their trauma are among our key areas of focus.
We are responding to this latest phase of the crisis by scaling up our response in Europe. Working in partnership with the Church in Greece, Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Serbia, we are providing living supplies such as food, shelter, sleeping bags and mats, hygiene packages, and clean water.
The Holy Father has called on every Catholic parish and religious community in Europe to take in one refugee family. How can Catholics in the U.S. also respond to the call to be a beacon of hope to the world?
We will keep you informed by posting the latest information and additional needs on CRS.org. There you will find prayer resources, up-to-date field reports and donation information.
We are also working with the USCCB on advocacy opportunities to expand U.S. policy on accepting refugees from Syria and Iraq, provide more U.S. funding to refugees in neighboring countries, and exercise leadership for diplomatic efforts to end the fighting. Currently the U.S. is accepting very few Syrians.
Thank you for all that you do for those in need. And please, keep migrants and refugees everywhere close in your thoughts. They are far from home and will need your prayers and support every step of the way.
Catholic Relief Services
Executive Vice President, U.S. Operations