The situation in Syria: Association pro Terra Sancta in Rome for the meeting organised by “Cor Unum”

Giacomo Pizzi5 June 2014

On Friday 30 May, the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” organised a coordination meeting for all Catholic charities working to support the Syrian crisis.

The war in Syria was at the heart of the first day of Pope Francis’ trip to the Holy Land. In Bethany on Saturday 24 May, he met with some Syrian refugees and this helped draw attention to this conflict which, over three years, has caused the death of over 150 thousand people, including many children.

A summit was then held on Friday 30 in the Vatican to coordinate the efforts of those agencies working to provide humanitarian support in the now totally ruined country. 25 Catholic bodies active in Syria or neighbouring countries, working to support the crisis, were invited in order to find new ways to coordinate with one another and with the Holy See.

The aim of the meeting was to assess the work that has been done so far and highlight critical areas and priorities for the future, but also to create greater synergy between the various bodies.

In attendance was Tommaso Saltini, Director of Association pro Terra Sancta  (NGO of the Custody of the Holy Land) who, since the start of the war, has worked alongside the Franciscans in supporting the convents and parishes which provide shelter and see to the basic needs (food, clothing and medicine) of many many families. Four welcome centres (Knayeh, Yacoubieh, Jser – El Chougour and Jdeideh) have been created and they house around 200 people and see to the needs of another 4,000 every day. Every month around 50 families are helped to find new homes.

The Franciscans of the Custody of the Holy Land have been active in Syria since before the start of the conflict and it is precisely for this reason that they are able to act and provide the necessary help.

In these two and a half years of conflict, the pro Terra Sancta Association has already made a significant contribution, thanks to the generosity of the many who have made many small but important donations. The funds are physically taken to Syria, which guarantees that they are correctly used. Donations have come from as far as China and Singapore. However, it’s still not enough. The need is great and many people are surviving only thanks to foreign aid.