Syria: Responding to an Unprecedented Crisis

Steve Weaver | March 23, 2015

A teacher leads a class discussion in a school in Cairo, Egypt, operated by by St. Andrew's Refugee Services, which is supported by Church World Service. Photo: Paul Jeffrey

A teacher leads a class discussion in a school in Cairo, Egypt, operated by by St. Andrew’s Refugee Services, which is supported by Church World Service. Photo: Paul Jeffrey

This month marks the 4th anniversary of the devastating war in Syria with little hope of it ending anytime soon.  This conflict has led to the worst humanitarian crisis in the world with 3.9 million Syrians escaping to surrounding countries and another 7.8 million displaced within Syria.  That means nearly half of Syria’s 24 million people have fled their homes in the past four years.

CWS is responding to this unprecedented crisis in a number of ways.  Since September 2013 we have been partnering with St. Andrew’s Refugee Services, or StARS in Cairo.  We are working with refugee communities there to provide education, psychosocial and legal services.   CWS staffer Beth Frank has been working with StARS in Cairo since October of 2013. StARS and CWS are working with refugees and asylum seekers from a number of countries including Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Iraq.  But the largest population being assisted is Syrian representing almost half of our students and clients.

The 3.9 million Syrian refugees are living under extremely difficult circumstances with an uncertain future.  It is hoped that most will someday be able to return home to a peaceful and stable Syria. With that prospect only a future hope at this point, Syrian families are struggling to support themselves in neighboring countries.  A small percentage of those individuals and families, ones with very unique challenges or needs, will be resettled to another country.  CWS is advocating for more resettlement opportunities for Syrians to the United States due to the magnitude of the crisis.  The CWS Immigration and Refugee Program assists the U.S. Government in refugee resettlement and we hope to resettle more Syrians by the end of the year.

Of course there can be no humanitarian solution to this crisis.  Only a political resolution will return peace and stability to Syria and the region. CWS’s President and CEO John McCullough has joined other church and agency leaders in a letter to President Obama which includes the request to “immediately prioritize diplomatic and political solutions that address the political and social grievances at the root of the conflicts in Iraq and Syria.”

CWS looks forward to the end of the crisis when Syrians can return to their homes and rebuild their communities.  Until that time we welcome your support as we continue to work with Syrian refugees in Cairo, advocate for and assist in the resettlement of the most vulnerable, and call for responsible diplomatic and political engagement to end the crisis.

Steve Weaver is Middle East Regional Coordinator for CWS.


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