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Cor Unum Hosts Meeting of Catholic Aid Agencies Working in the Context of the Syrian Crisis

30 May 2014 – The Meeting was attended by around 25 Catholic Agencies, out of which 13 were from Caritas in addition to CNEWA, Missio, C.R.S., Oeuvre d’Orient, Order of Malta, Jesuit Refugee Service, Saint Vincent de Paul, International Catholic Migration Commission (I.C.M.C.), A.T.S. pro Terra Sacta, CAFOD and Trocaire.

His Eminence Cardinal Robert Sarah President of Cor Unum led the meeting, and sharing the main podium were His Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin, secretary of state; Archbishop Mario Zenari, the apostolic nuncio in Damascus; Msgr. Giampietro Dal Toso, secretary general of Cor Unum; and Father Simon T. Faddoul, consultant.

The conference started with an introductory greeting by Cardinal Robert Sarah, followed by the word of his Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin who reminded the presence of the clear position of the Holy See — consistent since the beginning of the conflict in Syria — on the issue of human dignity and life, regardless of race or religion. The cardinal reiterated that there will be no military solution in Syria and that only through dialogue that peace can be attained. As for the Christians in Syria, Cardinal Parolin said, “Christians are called to build bridges between different communities,” adding that the Christians fear the future and they share the sufferings of their fellow citizens. However, all claims of persecution and news about persons being crucified cannot be accepted as truth without verifications and re-evaluations.

After a general update on the situation in Syria presented by Archbishop Mario Zenari and Chaldean Bishop Antoine Audo, president of Caritas Syria, discussions took place regarding methods to share and centralize information to serve as a tool for better coordination between Catholic agencies.

The discussion panel concentrated on three axes.

1 .The first major axis concerned work inside Syria. The big questions are: What is the mission of Catholic organizations working in Syria? Is the coordination between Catholic organizations enough? How is the progress of Caritas Syria so far? Are there any opportunities for interfaith and ecumenical collaboration in responding to the needs? Finally, what message should Cor Unum convey to the bishops of Syria?

2. The second axis concentrated on the information office that was established a year ago and delegated to Caritas Middle East and North Africa to improve coordination among Catholic agencies on regional level. The discussions focused on the work so far achieved and how this center is helping agencies to better understand the overall needs and how to foster coordination. Moreover, clarifying the scope and objectives of this center was evoked to improve transparency and at the same time preserve the privacy of each agency.

3. The last session was dedicated to discuss the common priorities, how to respond to the position of the Holy See and how to raise awareness and advocacy for a just and peaceful resolution for the Syrian crisis, and adequate humanitarian response. Finally, the question of improving the role of Catholic organizations in the Middle East at the international platforms to foster the presence of Christian communities affected by the crisis was also a major topic.

CNEWA’s Intervention:

CNEWA was represented at the meeting by Michel Constantin, the regional director for Lebanon, Syria and Egypt. Since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, CNEWA has been very active in responding to the humanitarian needs of the affected Christian displaced families in Syria and Lebanon.

The intervention of CNEWA’s representative focused on the following:

1. In response to the mission of the Catholic organizations who are responding to the Syrian humanitarian needs, CNEWA believes that as Catholic agencies our first mission should be walking with the local church and providing help to enable all those heroic persons who are risking their lives and working under high risks in war zones to encourage Syrian Christians to remain in their homeland.

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