Flow of Syrian Christian Refugees to Jordan Increasing, Caritas Says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The influx of Syrian Christian refugees into Jordan is on the rise, said the head of Caritas Jordan.

Though Lent and Holy Week have been marked by “discouragement and spiritual weariness” because of people’s ordeals, many Christian refugees plan to join Jordanians in their parish churches rather than attend Mass at the camps, said Wael Suleiman, executive director of Caritas Jordan. His agency is a local affiliate of Caritas Internationalis, an umbrella organization of Catholic aid agencies.

“We thought of celebrating liturgies for Syrian refugees of Catholic faith” in the camps, Suleiman told the Vatican’s Fides news agency on 14 April. “But they prefer to participate in the celebrations in the parishes of Jordan, in the midst of the faithful here. They are tired and are not interested in liturgies and celebrations reserved for them.”

However, he said, the people are awaiting “with hope” Pope Francis’ arrival in Jordan. The pope is scheduled to arrive in Amman, the Jordanian capital, on 24 May, and meet with refugees.

Suleiman told Fides that the number of Christian refugees flowing into Jordan from Syria has increased to more than 20,000 people.

While it is still a small percentage of the 1.3 million Syrian refugees, he said he believes “it is highly unlikely that the Christians who fled will return to Syria at the end of the war. This means that in some cities, like Homs and Aleppo, many Christian neighborhoods will remain empty.”

The al Azraq refugee camp in Jordan has expanded and will be able to accommodate 130,000 people, which would make it the largest refugee camp for Syrians in the region, Fides reported.

People will be housed in pre-fabricated buildings and shelters, rather than tents, the agency said.

Another large camp, Zaatari, already has become a “provisional city,” Suleiman said, with health centers, schools and a soccer field.

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