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Report on Syria’s Displaced Christians

22 Aug 2013 compiled by Issam Bishara

The majority of Syrian Christians who flee their homes and villages prefer to find shelter in safer areas inside Syria. This is partly to remain close to their properties, but also because the cost of living is lower in Syria, allowing them to better stretch their scarce resources.

At present, more than 300,000 Christian Syrians are believed to be displaced both internally and abroad, and are distributed as follows:

In Homs, most Christians have fled. In a communication sent to Agenzia Fides, the Syriac Orthodox Church claimed that over 90 percent of the Christians of Homs have been expelled by militant Islamists of the Farouq Brigades, who went door to door confiscating homes and forcing Christians to flee without their belongings. Jesuit sources in Homs say most Christians left on their own initiative to escape the conflict between government forces and insurgents. In either case, the Christian population of Homs has dropped from a pre-conflict total of 160,000 to about 1,000.

In Al Qusayr, a town near Homs with a prewar Christian population of 10,000, all Christians were forced to leave by armed fanatic groups. At present, the government forces have taken back the town, but homes and infrastructure alike have been seriously damaged.

In Aleppo, thousands of families — including over 300 Christian families — were displaced from the neighborhood of Sheikh Maqsoud, or Jabal al Saydeh, following a surge in violence in the northern city. The neighborhood, predominantly populated by Christians and Kurds, used to be one of the few relatively safe areas in the city and was hosting the greatest number of displaced families in the broader Aleppo area.

In Al Hassake, in northeastern Syria, the city’s bishops have issued a plea for assistance for some 25,000 Christians — including Syriac Orthodox, Syriac Catholics, Chaldeans and Armenians — many of whom are refugees from neighboring areas.

With the support of its international partners over the past 14 months, CNEWA has been able to reach around 12,758 displaced Syrian families — among them thousands of children — inside Syria and Lebanon through the infrastructure of the local church, in order to provide emergency aid and alleviate suffering.

CNEWA’s programs gave priority to vulnerable Christian displaced families who were not settled in refugee camps nor registered at the UNHCR or the Red Crescent programs. Such families do not benefit from any donations provided by the Arab states of the Persian Gulf or international donors.

The approach adopted by CNEWA relies on partnering with churches and church-affiliated groups — parish priests, congregations, patriarchal representatives, bishops and others. These groups are already active and efficient in collecting the necessary social data about displaced families and have developed teams capable of implementing effective and timely programs to serve those in need.

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