Written by Anthony Moujaes
The United Church of Christ is stepping in to assist the people of Syria, forced from their homes and their families by civil war. As hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to flee the country, the humanitarian relief comes at a critical time with winter approaching and the number of people needing assistance increasing.
"The United Church of Christ is grateful for faith-based partners active in Syria, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan through which we may live out our gospel and humanitarian call to stand with people in need. Our Syrian sisters and brothers of all faith traditions, who have had their lives disrupted by the ongoing violence, are receiving emergency relief and support," said Susan M. Sanders, UCC team leader for global sharing of resources.
The UCC issued a $100,000 emergency relief appeal this week. The financial assistance will provide food, shelter, warm clothing and trauma care through the partners of Global Ministries – the combined ministry of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ. One of the overseas partners, the Greek Orthodox Church, is providing warm clothing and activities for children who are being organized in the Za'atri refugee camp in Jordan.
The people of Syria are caught up in a civil war, which started as a rebellion against Prime Minister Bashar al-Assad's government in March 2011. A reported 20,000-30,000 people have died in as a result of the conflict. The warring sides have agreed to a four-day cease fire beginning Friday, Oct. 26, in observance of the Islamic Holiday Eid Al Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice). Beyond that, there's no clear indication when the fighting could stop, resulting in more deaths and more Syrians fleeing for safety.
"As the violence continues, and there seems to be no [long-term] political resolution on the horizon, the real victims are the Syrian people caught in the crossfire, and who are forced to uproot," said Dr. Peter E. Makari, the UCC's executive for the Middle East and Europe. "So many have already sought safety in other parts of Syria, and so many others have crossed borders as refugees—with documentation or without—in Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon."
Since the conflict began last year, the UCC has offered support to partners in the region responding to the crisis and working to assist both internally and externally displaced refugees. The United Nations estimates 1.2 million people have been forced from their homes in Syria, and more people continue fleeing across borders. About 300,000 Syrian refugees have made their way outside of the country, and the U.N. estimates that the number could double to 710,000 by the end of the year.
"Several of our Global Ministries partners in the Middle East—churches and faith-based organizations—are helping to provide basic needs, and this is where we can be engaged in a very impactful way," Makari said.
For more details on the situation, and to learn how you can help, visit the UCC's Disaster Response website.