Caritas Lebanon President Speaks on Plight of Syrians
Vatican Aid Agency Has Helped Over 20,000 Refugees Escaping Conflict
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ROME, SEPT. 18, 2012 (Zenit.org).- A major theme of Pope Benedict XVI's apostolic journey to Lebanon was the plight of people whose lives are disrupted by conflict and violence. Throughout his visit, the Holy Father reiterated his closeness to the people of Syria, many tens of thousands of whom are crossing the border in search of refuge.
Caritas Lebanon, founded 36 years ago, is part of the far reaching family of Caritas Internationalis, the Vatican aid agency whose mission is to bring help and support to millions of people in need across the world.
In an interview with Vatican Radio's Tracey McClure, Father Simon Faddoul, president of Caritas Lebanon, spoke on the impact the papal visit had on the country. From the very first moment, even when the Papal plane landed, Fr. Faddoul says, "we felt like the climate had changed, the climate among the people of this land: we felt more united, much closer".
I think, he continues, "that with this visit the Pope is able to unite the whole country." Fr. Faddoul points out that throughout the visit, people from all religions and from every walk of life were present. In itself, he says, "this is a great accomplishment".
He says that with his words, the Pope has planted even stronger hope in our hearts and minds. Especially in the hearts and minds of the young people. Regarding the meeting of young people at Bkerké, the Lebanese priest said that "heaven was open - I personally felt so". "There were Christians and Muslims alike, and people from all over. I felt it was like Pentecost", he said.
As President of Caritas Lebanon, Fr. Faddoul spoke of the difficulties faced over the past 16 months as floods of refugees have been coming into the country from Syria. He says initially they were mostly in the North, but as of now have spread throughout the country. "They come and they have to find a shelter for themselves", Fr. Faddoul said.
Most refugees have gone in search of relatives or acquaintances in the country due to an absence of a main camp for Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The building of a tent city for Syrian refugees requires a political decision by the Lebanese government. Fr. Faddoul stated that hesitation in building a main camp “derives from the fact that in 1948 Palestinian camps were set up and they are still here now.”
“They are afraid to give the people the idea that the camps will be around for longer than they are supposed to - or even become permanent,” he said.
According to Fr. Faddoul, Caritas has aided over 20,000 refugees, providing them with food parcels, hygiene products, mattresses. Although there have been some American and European partners who have helped, the president of Caritas Lebanon expressed his hope that his message will reach out and the response for Caritas' second appeal will be much greater.
"We are studying possibility of creating the basic infrastructures for them so that they can hopefully have a bit of a normal life," he said.