Humanity and hope of refugees

19 Jun 2013   |   Blog   |   Syria   |   Emergency Relief

Tags:  human dignity, Syrian refugees, Syria, Refugees   |   No comments

By Lilian Chan, online editor at Caritas Australia

“I asked her, ‘Why didn’t you come to us or the UN for help?’ She was afraid, and she didn’t want to beg. But she also said, ‘I’ll go back to my country soon.’”

As I read these words, my eyes started to tear up. This was a conversation between an aid worker and a Syrian refugee which we published in a blog. Almost a year ago.

The words overwhelmed me because, now, one year later, the situation in Syria hasn’t improved, from what I can tell it has deteriorated further. Overwhelmed because wherever this woman is now, I don’t think she is home. I teared up because the words contain such humanity – fear, but also dignity, and hope…

The conflict in Syria has been going on for over two years now. The figures are staggering. According to the UNHCR, there are over 1.6 million refugees who have fled Syria to the neighbouring countries of Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq.

While numbers are important in illustrating the extent and gravity of the situation, it is easy to lose the true picture amongst statistics – the human faces involved in this tragedy. The reality is that these numbers are made up of individuals who have feelings, aspirations, and like every human being, fundamental human needs. Here are reflections that some of the Syrian refugees have shared with us:

Mohammad, a Syrian refugee in Jordan“When you first arrive, you are in complete shock. You are mentally and physically tired from the journey. You are in a weird environment where everyone is a stranger.”

– Mohammad, a Syrian refugee now in Jordan

Zarfeh, a mother of eight who fled to Jordan“We had to get the children out because it had become too dangerous… I brought nothing of value, except my children. There is nothing more precious than that.”

– Zarfeh, a mother of eight children who fled to Jordan

Rahaf is a Syrian refugee who is volunteering for Caritas Jordan“We had a normal life. We went to university. We had friends. We were even a little spoiled by our parents. And then suddenly we had nothing. We were cold, hungry and alone.”

– Rahaf, a 20 year old woman from Syria

And that’s the thing about this situation in Syria – many of the refugees had lives that we can relate to. As one aid worker said, “Many of the Syrians I’ve met come from secure, middle-income backgrounds. I’ve realised that they share the same hopes that I have – of having a job, a car, stability…”

These Syrian refugees had lives like yours and mine. They are like you and me. Because of this, it is so clear to see that these people have needs beyond the basics of food and shelter. They have the fundamental human needs of being loved, to feel safe, and to have a sense of hope for the future. Mohammad, one of the refugees, tries to keep this hope alive for his children. He says, “I tell them that our lives will return to how they were and one day we will be able to go home.”

This is what hit me hardest when I reread the conversation between the aid worker and the Syrian woman from a year ago – that her hope of returning home probably hasn’t been fulfilled; and worse yet, that at this moment it seems beyond reach.

We have refugees in all countries, those who are smuggled, those whose passports were taken away and are forced into slavery. There is great need for the presence of the tender touch of the Church."
Pope Francis

But as Bishop Audo from Syria says, “For Caritas, there is no question of giving up.” In the face of the continuing conflict, Caritas will continue to work with Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey – not only to support them with food, healthcare and accommodation – but also to show them care and love, so that they can continue to have hope for a better future. One Syrian refugee at the Caritas centre says, “I appreciate their humanity, they treat me with dignity. The care and attention they give me makes receiving even the simplest thing a pleasure.”

This week is Refugee Week, so as we take some time out and think about the many refugees in the world, may we also reflect on their humanity – that they are people like you and me, and that we all need a bit of hope.

Fatima, a Syrian refugee choosing a quilt

More than just a quilt

“This is my favourite colour, is it ok to have this one instead?” Fatima held proudly a blue quilt. “Of course,” said the volunteer. “This is actually yours and you have the right to get the one that you like most”. Read more »

Learn more about the Syrian crisis and how Caritas is supporting refugees

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