A Vatican conference on humanitarian crises

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A Vatican conference on humanitarian crises

By Fr. Dr. Rif’at Bader

I have had the honor to be part of a Jordanian delegation that participated in the September 13-14 conference on the humanitarian crisis in Syria and Iraq which the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development convened. The conference, the sixth of its kind, concluded with a meeting with His Holiness Pope Francis. It discussed the ramifications of the humanitarian crisis in Syria and Iraq as well as the efforts exerted by the Catholic organization operating in these countries.

This conference was attended by experts from more than 50 Catholic organizations and institutions worldwide, which have been directing their efforts to alleviate the suffering of the refugees, especially from Iraq and Syria. The Jordanian delegation included Director of the Catholic Center for Studies and Media in Jordan Fr. Dr. Rif’at Bader, President of the Missionaries for Peace Association Father Khalil Ja’ar, Director of Caritas Jordan Wael Suleiman, and Director of Caritas Projects in Jordan Omar ‘Abawi. During the conference, it turned out that these Catholic institutions provided services worth $1 billion in the past four years in support of the refugees in Syria and Iraq as well as in countries hosting refugees such as Lebanon and Jordan.

The main speakers at the conference and the interventions of the participants revealed satisfaction due to the fact that the Church institutions have not been standing idly by over the past period which is one of the most complicated and difficult periods. Yet, the insurmountable questions that arose have been about the future. These are merely experts in humanitarian work, yet the future needs political discernment. That is why United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi was invited to take part in the sessions. Yet, he failed to provide viable political solutions. At a time, when calls were repeatedly expressed on the safe and free return of refugees, the questions that arose was: “Are there strong guarantees that the future would be better than the reality experienced in displacement? Is there someone who guarantees that the future would not unveil new tragedies which would force the repatriated to be forcibly displaced again? There are no guarantees that the “safe” return would provide permanent safety.

On the other hand, several questions were raised, namely who wants to be repatriated? Are the Syrian or Iraqi refugees residing in a neighboring country or the refugees who found a safe haven in far countries such as the USA, Canada, and Australia as well as European countries willing to do so? The questions are painful and frank, but what is most painful is the inability to find solutions or rather find answers to these questions.

The issue of migration that was discussed in the Vatican was not restricted to talking about the Christian refugees despite the fact that addresses were not void of elucidating the sharp drop of the Christian component in Iraq, at a time when about one-and-a-half million Iraqis dropped to only 300,000 people living there. Who can restore this diminishing attendance? No one, of course. Yet, the attending Church institutions stated that they are serving all people without discrimination because every human being is created by the One Creator and enjoys equal dignity that transcends religious or ethnic differences. This was confirmed by Pope Francis in his meeting with the participants in the conference at the final session when he said: "The testimony of love, through which the Church listens and responds to the cry for help to everyone starting with the most vulnerable and proceeding to the poor, is a bright sign of the present and a seed of hope that will blossom in the future."

Caritas Jordan, which celebrated last year its 50th anniversary, is a source of pride as it enjoys international encouragement and appreciation foremost of which from the Vatican and other sisterly institutions in different countries. Caritas Jordan is due this appreciation owing to the services it provides in helping the forcibly displaced and in respecting human dignity.

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